- The Washington Times - Friday, February 16, 2007

The Democratic-led House this afternoon voted against President Bush’s plan to send more troops to Iraq, a non-binding but symbolic action that Republicans said is defeatist and a step backwards in the war on terrorism.

“Today we have had an historic victory for the American people,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, who voted against the war in 2002.

The 97-word resolution, which opposes sending 21,500 more soldiers to Iraq, passed the House by a vote of 246 to 182. The vote was preceded by 44 hours and 55 minutes of debate over four days.

There were 17 Republicans who voted for the measure, and two Democrats voted against it. Democrats said earlier estimates that as many as 60 Republicans might defect were a ploy by Republicans.

White House spokesman Tony Snow said the House was “gambling on failure.” He repeated the president’s charge that “Congress should provide the full funding and flexibility our Armed Forces need to succeed in their mission to protect our country.”

House Republican leaders vowed to defeat what they called Democratic plans to begin slowly choking off funding for the war in Iraq.

“This is a first dangerous step to cutting off the funds that our troops so desperately need,” said Rep. Adam Putnam, Florida Republican.

House Minority Whip Roy Blunt, Missouri Republican, said the the resolution “is clearly the first step toward defunding the troops and the war against Islamic totalitarianism.”

Democrats do plan to introduce legislation next month that they hope will limit the president’s use of money in a supplemental war request.

Rep. John P. Murtha, Pennsylvania Democrat, explained on Thursday that he hopes to require certification for adequate training and equipment for any deployed soldiers, and to place caps on how long soldiers can serve and be enlisted.

“They won’t be able to do the deployment,” said Mr. Murtha, who voted in favor of authorizing the war in 2002.

House Minority Leader John Boehner, Ohio Republican, denounced the plan “to eliminate funding for our troops that are in harm’s way.”

Democrats insist the best way to “support the troops” is to take them out of what they say is a civil war in Iraq.

Rep. Henry A. Waxman, California Democrat, who also voted for the war in 2002, said the war in Iraq “has weakened our fight against al Qaeda. In fact the war has enhanced the group’s recruitment.”

Republicans insist that Iraq is a hard but necessary fight against terrorists and insurgents backed by Iran and Syria, and that the conflict is part of the country’s broader fight against terrorism.

The four-day debate, in which 392 of 434 House legislators participated, came to a dramatic conclusion yesterday afternoon.

Republicans sent Rep. Sam Johnson, Texas Republican, a prisoner of war in Vietnam for almost seven years, to the House floor as their last speaker.

“Let my body serve as a brutal reminder that we must not repeat the mistakes of the past,” said Mr. Johnson, 76. “We must not cut off funding for the troops.”

Republicans gave Mr. Johnson a two-minute standing ovation, and were joined by the smattering of Democrats present in the chamber.

Democrats sent Rep. Ike Skelton, Missouri Democrat, to close the debate. Mr. Skelton, who voted to authorize the war in 2002, said that sending more soldiers “will embroil our troops more deeply in a sectarian conflict [that] cannot be won militarily.”

Immediately after the resolution passed, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, sent out a release that said the Senate “must join the House and vote on the escalation.”

Mr. Reid has taken the unusual step of bringing senators in tomorrow, on a Saturday, to vote on closing off amendments to an anti-surge resolution identical to the House bill.

Democrats say Republicans are avoiding an up or down vote on the surge, but Republicans say they want to vote, at the same time, on other measures that would also guarantee no funding cuts for the U.S. military.

“Senate Republicans want a vote in support of funding for the troops,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, who said he expects to defeat Mr. Reid’s attempt to close out amendments.

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