Friday, January 19, 2007

Speaker Nancy Pelosi said yesterday that House Democrats will support a Senate resolution denouncing President Bush’s proposal to increase the number of troops in Iraq.

“It is not in the national interest of the United States to deepen its military involvement in Iraq, particularly by escalating the U.S. troop presence in Iraq,” she said at a press conference yesterday, reading with approval from the nonbinding Senate resolution.

“Introduced in a bipartisan way in the United States Senate, that resolution will be supported in the House by the Democrats,” Mrs. Pelosi said. “We do not support the escalation of the war. We do not think it is in our national interest. We will engage the public in that debate.”

Mrs. Pelosi has made clear her disdain for the “surge” proposal since before Mr. Bush’s prime-time address to the nation last week, but yesterday’s remarks were her first indication of the language that she will want the House to approve. The Senate bill was introduced Wednesday.

While the nonbinding resolution will have no concrete impact on the deployment of troops in the Middle East, it is likely to be a startling declaration to Mr. Bush, U.S. forces and the rest of the world that the commander in chief is operating without the support of either chamber of Congress.

Sen. Olympia J. Snowe of Maine, one of the Senate resolution’s two Republican co-sponsors, said yesterday that even the symbolic power of a nonbinding resolution “should not be underestimated.”

Passing both chambers “would speak loud and clear to the American people and to the president. A president can’t sustain a military conflict without the support either of Congress as well as the American people, and that’s what the president is up against,” she told MSNBC.

During the past week, congressional opposition to Mr. Bush’s war policy has made headlines around the world.

“Senators oppose Bush’s Iraq plan” said Al Jazeera’s Web site yesterday. The story quoted Sen. Chuck Hagel, Nebraska Republican and a co-author of the Senate resolution, saying: “I will do everything I can to stop the president’s policy as he outlined it on Wednesday night. I think it is dangerously irresponsible.”

Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., Delaware Democrat and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said his panel will start debate on the resolution on Wednesday. It was not clear last night when there would be a floor vote in either chamber.

During yesterday’s press conference, Mrs. Pelosi said she expects the legislation to garner bipartisan support in the House.

Some liberal Democrats want more. Earlier this week, Rep. Lynn Woolsey, California Democrat, introduced a bill that would require all U.S. troops to leave Iraq within six months and cut off funding if they do not. The bill has 17 co-sponsors, although none are party leaders.

Relegated to the sidelines in Congress after the November elections largely because of their support of the war, Republicans held a week of “listening sessions” to search for a war platform they could unite on.

“We have learned from our discussions that while differences of opinion do exist in the Conference, commonality also exists. What unites us is far stronger than what divides us,” Republican Conference Chairman Adam H. Putnam of Florida wrote in a letter yesterday to colleagues. “As Democrats continue to debate over which course of cut-and-run they should support, House Republicans are categorically united behind four guiding principles.”

Included in their list of principles is that “there is only one commander in chief,” “failure in Iraq is not an option,” and “we are opposed to cutting off funding for our troops.”

And, after years of complaints from Democrats over lackadaisical oversight of the war, Republicans yesterday declared, “Congress has a constitutional right and obligation to exercise oversight.”

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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