- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 6, 2007

House Democrats next week will take up the resolution condemning President Bush’s plan to send an additional 21,500 troops to Iraq, House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer said yesterday, while the Senate continues negotiations over handling the nonbinding rebuke.

“The reason we’re going ahead is not because we don’t think the Senate will ever act, but we’re not sure when the Senate is going to act,” the Maryland Democrat told reporters yesterday.

“I think the resolution will clearly say we do not believe that the president’s proposal of an escalation of 21,000 troops is the proper policy to be pursuing,” Mr. Hoyer said, adding that the House resolution will also be nonbinding.

House Democrats initially said they would wait until the Senate approved such a measure, but Republicans in the upper chamber managed to block it this week. They have accused Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, of trying to limit the scope of the debate by not allowing two other resolutions expressing support for the war effort to be voted on in a similar fashion.

After the Senate resolution was blocked on a procedural motion Monday evening, Mr. Reid said he expects the resolution will come up again but did not elaborate.

In a letter to supporters yesterday, the Nevada Democrat accused Republicans of dodging a debate on Iraq.

“There are very few men and women in America who believe the Iraq war is not worthy of debate,” he wrote. “They are the Republican members of the United States Senate. Yesterday, they did our country a grave disservice.”

Republican leader Sen. Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, has said he won’t allow a vote on the resolution of no confidence unless a similar vote is allowed on two other resolutions.

One would endorse the “surge” plan but set benchmarks for Iraqi self-governance. A third resolution would promise not to cut funding for the war.

Late yesterday, Mr. McConnell offered to allow the resolution to go forward in exchange for a vote on the “no funding cutoff” resolution only. Mr. Reid declined. Republicans say they want Democrats on the record either favoring or opposing cuts in funding, which many Democratic voters are demanding. But Mr. Reid does not appear likely to allow such a vote to occur.

Rather, he wants a vote on the resolution of condemnation and said last month that he expects it to be painful for Republicans who face re-election in 2008.

“I’ll tell you one thing: There are 21 Republicans up for re-election this time,” he told reporters on Jan. 26. “If they think this is going to be a soft vote for them, they’ve got another think coming. They have more than [Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Charles E.] Schumer to worry about.”

Mr. Hoyer, meanwhile, said the resolution will be similarly limited in scope when it arrives on the floor next week.

“I expect this bill be debated for an extended period of time — maybe over three days,” he said, though amendments will not be allowed.

Also yesterday, Sen. John Kerry told reporters he is introducing legislation that would set a firm deadline for the withdrawal of most U.S. troops from Iraq.

The Massachusetts Democrat hopes to kick-start a major diplomatic initiative, enforcing a series of benchmarks for meeting key political objectives, shifting the military mission to training Iraqi security forces and counterterrorism operations, and maintaining an “over-the-horizon” presence to protect U.S. regional interests.

“The only people who believe there is a workable military solution for the conflict in Iraq is the Bush administration,” Mr. Kerry said. “We must find a way to force the Iraqi politicians to make the tough compromises necessary to find a sustainable political solution.”

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