By SUSAN CORNWELL
U.S. House of Representatives Democrats unveiled a resolution on Monday opposing a troop buildup in Iraq, setting up a confrontation this week over President George W. Bush’s war strategy.
Seizing the initiative from a deadlocked Senate, the House is expected to vote on Friday on Bush’s decision to send another 21,500 troops to fight the unpopular war after each of its 435 members is given the chance to speak for five minutes.
The simple, two-sentence resolution also pledges support for U.S. troops.
It does not force the president to do anything, but supporters say they hope a strong statement against his policy will make Bush reconsider.
“Congress and the American people will continue to support and protect the members of the United States Armed Forces who are serving or who have served bravely and honorably in Iraq,” the resolution says, adding:
“Congress disapproves of the decision of President George W. Bush announced on January 10, 2007, to deploy more than 20,000 additional United States combat troops to Iraq.”
House Republicans have conceded they are likely to lose the vote on the measure and expect some of their members to defect and support it. But trying to undermine the proposal, they charged on Monday that it was the first step toward cutting off funding for U.S. military, something anathema to many lawmakers.
“After their resolution passes, Democrats will begin moving legislation to systematically cut off funding for America’s troops,” declared a statement from House Republican Leader John Boehner’s office.
Democratic leaders deny they will cut funding to troops in harm’s way. But they have pledged that in the coming weeks they will examine some Democrats’ proposals to cap troop levels or place restrictions on funding for the war.
Polls show most Americans oppose Bush’s troop boost plan. Discontent with the Iraq war played a major part in the Democrats’ takeover of Congress in November elections.
House Republican leaders wanted a vote on a substitute proposal that would prevent a cutoff of funds for U.S. troops. But House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, a Maryland Democrat, refused, saying he wanted to avoid the kind of fight that engulfed the Senate last week over whether to debate troop funding along with the troop increase.
Amid the Senate procedural wrangling, the issue was shelved.
The House does not have the same rules allowing a minority to stall debate, and House Republicans seeking a vote on funding may have to wait until Democrats allow such a measure to come to the floor. Hoyer says the Republicans will get that chance in 30 to 45 days.
Copyright Ã‚Â© 2007 Reuters Limited