- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 13, 2007

House Democrats introduced a war resolution yesterday condemning President Bush’s plan to send reinforcement troops to Iraq, but their anti-war supporters say it misses the point because it doesn’t simply cut funding for the war.

“Congress disapproves of the decision” to send 21,500 more troops to the Middle East, states the resolution. It says Congress will “continue to support and protect” U.S. armed forces but doesn’t address cutting war funds — the only tool Congress has for ending the war.

The nonbinding statement of disapproval was drafted by two senior Democrats, Reps. Ike Skelton of Missouri and Tom Lantos of California, and a Republican, Rep. Walter B. Jones of North Carolina, who voted for the war in 2002 but have since turned against it. House debate on it will begin today.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, said yesterday that at the end of the week, “we will vote on a straightforward position: Do you support the president’s plan or oppose it?”

She said the vote “will herald whether the House understands the message the American people are sending about the policies used to implement this war.”

But peace activists who voted overwhelmingly for Democratic candidates in the November elections say Mrs. Pelosi and Democrats in Congress have gotten the message all wrong.

“Congress is not listening to the voice of the people,” said Gael Murphy, co-founder of the anti-war group Code Pink: Women for Peace.

“We are disappointed that Congress is not moving forward expeditiously and we are being distracted by this nonbinding resolution that holds no one accountable,” she said. “From what we can tell, nobody is interested in debating a real exit strategy.”

Ms. Murphy, who is leading daily protests at congressional hearings and a lobbying offensive on members’ offices, said her group will keep pressing Democrats to stop the war.

“No one is putting pressure on Bush to come up with an exit strategy, which is what the people want,” she said. “All we are talking about is an escalation of the war.”

Kevin Martin, executive director of Peace Action, the country’s largest anti-war group with about 100,000 members, said Democrats are failing to seize the “mandate for peace” from the election.

“The interests of the peace movement are not the same as that of the Democratic Party,” he said. “I’m more concerned with ending the war than with re-election in ‘08. I don’t think I can say that for some of the Democrats.”

Mr. Martin, who blames both parties for supporting the war in the first place, said, “Congress needs to use the power of the purse to cut off funding for the war.” Of the nonbinding resolutions opposing reinforcements, he said they’re “a worthless waste of time. Why bother?”

It’s a narrow point on which Rep. John Carter, Texas Republican, agrees with the peace activists.

“These meaningless nonbinding resolutions are a distraction,” he said. “This is just a political stunt by the Democrats that will not bring us any closer to ending the war. It only serves to weaken the morale of our fighting men and women and allows our enemy to claim victory.”

House Minority Leader John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, predicted that the resolution is “the first step in the Democrats’ plan to cut off funding for American troops who are in harm’s way.”

He also criticized Democratic leaders for denying Republicans the opportunity to amend the resolution.

“If Democrats are serious about supporting our troops, they will allow Republicans to offer a substantive alternative that binds the Congress to an unwavering and unambiguous commitment to fund the American men and women who wear our uniform,” Mr. Boehner said.

Stacey Farnen Bernards, spokeswoman for House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat, said Republicans “are trying to muddy the waters and avoid the question that is on the floor this week to support or oppose the president’s escalation of the war in Iraq.”

Whatever message Democrats hope to send Mr. Bush, he doesn’t plan to get it. In an interview with C-SPAN yesterday, he said he probably won’t watch the debate this week, saying he has a full schedule and already knows “what the debate is.”

White House spokesman Tony Snow said Congress can “do whatever it thinks it needs to do in terms of resolutions,” but he said Mr. Bush is proceeding anyway.

Asked if the resolution was harmful to the troops, Mr. Snow didn’t answer directly, instead saying “the way you support the troops is help them complete their mission successfully.”

Yesterday afternoon, Sen. John W. Warner, Virginia Republican, tried reviving his resolution condemning the troop increase by offering it to the major funding bill on the floor. Mr. Warner joined other Republicans last week in blocking a vote on his own measure because Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, would not permit certain other Republican proposals to be considered.

Sen. Susan Collins, Maine Republican and a co-author of that bill, said yesterday that “sending our troops to Baghdad would be a colossal error.”

Reid spokesman Jim Manley said Mr. Warner’s latest effort will not succeed since Mr. Reid has stopped allowing new amendments to the high-priority funding bill.

“Senator Reid offered Senator Warner and others a vote on their own proposal last week, but they decided to stop the Senate from debating their own resolution,” Mr. Manley said.

• Stephen Dinan contributed to this report.

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