- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 14, 2006

House Democrats are accusing Republicans of politicizing the upcoming debate on the Iraq war, saying the majority party has pulled a bait-and-switch by focusing the debate on terrorism instead of about Iraq policy as promised.

Lawmakers today will spend 10 hours discussing a Republican-authored resolution that, among other things, asserts that former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein posed a threat to global peace and declares that the United States is “committed to the completion of the mission to create a sovereign, free, secure and united Iraq.” No amendments will be allowed.

“It is inexcusable and indefensible that at a time when we should be discussing the details of [Iraq] policy that they come up with a political document designed for a political message, a political spin and political debate at a time when our men and women are in harm’s way,” said Rep. Martin T. Meehan, Massachusetts Democrat and Armed Services Committee member.

Rep. Lynn Woolsey, California Democrat, called it a “pointless” debate that is “long on rhetoric and short on solution.”

Other Democrats complained that Republican leaders had promised a “substantive” discussion on Iraq.

Instead, Republicans delivered a document that “fuzzes together” the war on terrorism with the increasingly unpopular conflict in Iraq, said Rep. Ike Skelton of Missouri, the top Democrat on the Armed Services Committee.

“Those are two different wars,” Mr. Skelton said. “Those that we’re fighting have two different goals, and that is being smoothed over by this resolution.”

The International Relations Committee took the lead in drafting the resolution, called: “Declaring that the United States will prevail in the global war on terror, the struggle to protect freedom from the terrorist adversary.”

Democrats on that committee first saw a draft of the resolution Friday afternoon. They had the weekend to read it and, on Monday, offered their edits to the measure, effectively stripping all references to the “global war on terror.” They suggested renaming the resolution: “Declaring that the United States will prevail in the struggle to protect freedom from all adversaries including terrorists.”

A senior Republican aide criticized the proposed edits, the majority of which were not adopted, saying Democrats are ignoring “America’s commitment to fight the global war on terror.”

Lynne Weil, spokeswoman for Rep. Tom Lantos of California, the International Relations Committee’s top Democrat, said her boss suggested the edits to correct factual errors.

“He feels that this is a missed opportunity. The resolution as drafted is unfortunately not sufficiently bipartisan or broad enough,” she said.

Though Democrats such as Mr. Skelton are frustrated by the resolution’s language, some said they may vote in favor of it on Friday because it praises the troops and applauds the elimination of terrorist Abu Musab Zarqawi.

Still, Democrats should “have the courage to vote against it,” said Rep. Maxine Waters, California Democrat. “It’s a sham, a phony debate.”

House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert of Illinois, who rarely speaks on measures, will open the debate tomorrow.

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