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Pelosi takes the lead in Iraq debate

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February 13, 2007

By ANNE FLAHERTY

Speaker Nancy Pelosi led the way Tuesday as the Democratic-controlled House embarked on an extraordinary debate over the Iraq war, declaring that the public has decided that President Bush’s policies “have not worked, will not work and must be changed.”

A vote is expected by Friday on a nonbinding measure that opposes Bush’s recent decision to increase the number of U.S. military personnel in Iraq while pledging support for the troops already there.

“Instead of engaging in personal and partisan attacks over the next three days, we must focus on this question: How is the violence in Iraq most likely to be lessened so that our troops can come home safely and soon?” Pelosi, D-Calif., said in excerpts of her remarks released by her office.

“The president’s plan is based on a judgment that the way out of Iraq lies in sending more troops in. History has proven just the opposite. Four previous troop escalations have resulted primarily in escalating levels of violence,” she said.

Democrats expressed confidence the measure would prevail and said they would attempt to use it as the opening move in a campaign to pressure Bush to change course and end U.S. military involvement in the war. More than 3,100 U.S. troops have died in nearly four years of fighting.

Republicans conceded that the measure was headed for approval and said a few dozen members of the GOP were likely to break ranks and vote for it.

In a reversal, Pelosi and the Democratic leadership decided Monday night not to give Republicans a chance to propose an alternative measure — a move that drew protests from Rep. John Boehner of Ohio, the GOP leader.

“At the end of the debate, we will vote on a straightforward proposition: Whether we support the president’s plan or oppose it,” Pelosi said in her prepared remarks. “That vote will signal whether the House has heard the message the American people have sent about this war. The current policies have not worked, will not work and must be changed.”

It was the first debate about the war in either house of Congress since November’s midterm elections, when public opposition to the conflict helped power Democrats to control of the House and Senate.

Bush’s decision last month to deploy an additional 21,500 troops to help stop sectarian violence has quickly become a flashpoint for critics of the war in Congress.

The nonbinding measure states simply that the House “will continue to support and protect” troops serving in Iraq but that it “disapproves” of the troop buildup.

While such legislation can neither force Bush’s hand nor bring the war to a close, the vote could be a politically embarrassing rejection of his Iraq policy and help Democrats reassert congressional oversight of the war.

Each of the House’s 435 members and five delegates will be allotted five minutes to speak on the issue. Democratic leaders said Monday they planned to restrict members to a single vote by week’s end, barring any amendments or a GOP alternative — a tack Republican leaders decried as unfair.

“After promising to make this Congress the most open and honest in history, (House Speaker) Nancy Pelosi has effectively shut out both Republicans and Democrats from substantively debating the most important issue of our time,” said Rep. John Shadegg, R-Ariz.

Pelosi and other Democrats said restricting debate to one measure will force members to go on record on the war without hiding behind political ploys.

“We shouldn’t clutter this debate,” said Rep. John Larson, D-Conn., vice chairman of the House Democratic Caucus. “We must focus on one thing — the men and women that wear the uniform and taking them out of the center of an increasing insurgency and civil war.”

Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., told reporters Monday he had heard from about 20 Republicans who said they opposed the troop buildup, and from one Democrat reluctant to support the resolution.

This week’s debate will be in sharp contrast to the one in 2002, which authorized Bush to use force if Iraqi President Saddam Hussein did not comply with U.N. weapons inspectors.

That debate resulted in solid margins of support from Republicans and Democrats — a victory for a president buoyed by popular ratings following the Sept. 11 attacks and easily assuring a jittery nation that Hussein posed a gathering threat to the United States.

In October 2002, just over half of the public — 52 percent — approved of Bush’s handling of Iraq in Gallup polling.

But Bush now faces a new political landscape. After 47 months of war, more than 3,100 U.S. troops have died and the justification for the invasion — Saddam’s ties to al-Qaida and development of weapons of mass destruction — has been discredited with a majority of the public. Democrats are in charge and public approval of Bush’s handling of Iraq is now at 32 percent, the lowest in AP-Ipsos polling.

As the House moved toward debate this week, Senate Republicans opposed to Bush’s Iraq plan sought to revive a vote on a similar resolution.

Sen. John Warner, R-Va., proposed Monday attaching his resolution to a must-pass budget bill.

“As the House of Representatives debates the paramount issue of our time, we are dithering on the sidelines,” said Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, a co-sponsor of Warner’s resolution.

Warner is considered unlikely to be successful this time around because Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., will probably insist other GOP resolutions on Iraq be considered. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has opposed considering multiple resolutions, saying they would muddy the debate.

Frustrated by the stalemate, Warner said Monday he would keep trying.

“Our concerns are heartfelt” and “not driven by political motivation,” he said.

Copyright © 2007 The Associated Press

9 Responses to Pelosi takes the lead in Iraq debate

  1. Sandy Price

    February 13, 2007 at 3:38 pm

    Today in the House of Representatives they will start off with each member being given 5 minutes to express their opinions on the debate described above. CSPAN will cover this “wordy” couple of days. I will cut in and out until Friday when a vote will be taken and presented to President Bush 43.

    On MSNBC this morning, Chip Reid interviewed Congressman Walter Jones (R) from South Carolina who explained that bringing our troops out of Iraq has been discussed in his District and they feel we must stop being policemen for two religious sects of Islam. Congressman Jones quietly explained that the subject of truth must be examined before another soldier on either side is killed. These words are my translation of his meaning and I was very impressed with his ability to state what most of us all over America feel is the only correct action.

    Hat’s off to Congressman Walter Jones. I wish my own Representative was determined to locate the truth.

  2. JimZ

    February 13, 2007 at 3:41 pm

    Well Nancy, that’s GREAT…

    But do a BINDING resolution, not a non-binding one.

    Your credibility is already in question.

    John Warner:

    “Our concerns are heartfelt” and “not driven by political motivation,” he said.

    Coming from a politician, THAT is a statement. NO political motivation?

    This whole thing is a waste of time & oxygen. The ONLY GOOD THING is they are distracted from screwing us over in other ways, like the coming “telecom deform act”, the telecom & cable TV lobbyists are cooking up for us.

  3. Kent Shaw

    February 13, 2007 at 4:18 pm

    .

    More hot air from congress. No wonder the globe is warming. Useless. Less than useless. Criminal.

    .

    IMPEACH NOW.

    .

    CUT OFF WAR FUNDING NOW.

    .

    Otherwise just shut up and go home. Stop wasting my time and money.

  4. Ray

    February 13, 2007 at 4:50 pm

    Kent, E-mail me please.

  5. Phil

    February 13, 2007 at 6:25 pm

    Too little too late.

    Nancy needs to be told that the party line isn’t fooling us. We know that lessening the violence isn’t a precondition of withdrawing troops. No, withdrawing troops is the only thing that can begin to reduce the violence.

    Let’s all remember one important thing: Congress has the power to end the war tomorrow. They can cut off funds; they can begin impeachment; at the very least they can nullify their 2002 resolution of dictatorial authority (which by any legal standard has been invalid since day one anyway). If there’s any Congressperson trying to do these things, rather than wasting time (and lives) by playing politics and debating meaningless resolutions, they alone deserve our support. The rest are complicit in the administration’s crimes against humanity.

  6. Route66

    February 13, 2007 at 6:34 pm

    This sadly is just more political games and posturing while Americans and Iraquis continue to bleed and die every day. The House will vote, and the President will ingore it like he ignores anything he doesn’t agree with, including the Constitution and enacted laws. Even if Congress had the guts to put requirements and restrictions into law over the President’s veto, he still would ignore them. Congress has not and will not do anything substantive to stop him. It’s all about positioning for the 2008 Bush administration post-mortem election.

    As much as we can properly blame the President & Co., the Congress on both sides of the aisle, and the mostly useless media, we also should blame ourselves — at least the 20-30 percent of fickle voters who flip-flop like landed fish, and seem to have little attention span. The politicians have seen that too many voters are notoriously inconsistent and undependable. Never mind about flouride; they should put ritalin in the drinking water.

  7. Roger the Shrubber

    February 13, 2007 at 7:53 pm

    Bravely bold Pelosi, rode forth with non-binding resolutions, She will not

    endanger herself with cutting funds for the troop surge that could effect her future prospects of getting re-elected, Oh brave Pelosi.

    When Danger reared its ugly head, brave Pelosi cried out with non-binding resolutions and fled.

    Brave-Brave-Spineless Democrats.

  8. Kent Shaw

    February 13, 2007 at 9:15 pm

    Ray, check your email inbox.

  9. Doubtom

    February 14, 2007 at 8:00 am

    Listen up Pelosi,,what has to change is the view of most of you whorish scumbags, who feel that you have to suck up to the likes of AIPAC and Israel to get elected. Also in need of change is your view that there’s an “unbreakable bond” between Israel and the United States. Where in hell did you pick up the wild idea anyway? Did the American people get to vote of this bullshit? Who in hell do you think you are, to put American troops in harm’s way for Israel and our “unbreakable bond”?

    Finally you need to bear in mind that you were sent to Congress to represent our people, not AIPAC or any other jewish lobby or Israel. We can get into enough trouble on our own without playing wet nurse to that rogue nation while it steals land from the Palestinians. And while we’re at it, how about sending the money that annually, automatically, goes to Israel to our folks who suffered the ravages of Katrina? Or is that too close to your real job description?