Determined to check President Bush, Democratic critics of the Iraq war hope a strong House vote critical of the administration’s troop buildup will pay dividends in the Senate. But Republicans are insisting on an alternative that rejects any reduction in troop funding, making it unlikely Democrats will prevail in a test vote Saturday.

“Americans deserve to know whether their senator stands with the president and his plan to deepen our military commitment in Iraq, or with the overwhelming majority of Americans who oppose this escalation,” Majority Leader Harry Reid said Friday on the eve of the Senate showdown.

The House on Friday passed, 246-182, a measure stating opposition to Bush’s decision to send 21,500 more troops to Iraq. The nonbinding resolution was a symbolic rebuke of a wartime president who has lost favor with the American public.

A sizable majority, 63 percent, oppose Bush’s decision to send more troops, although support for Bush’s plan has risen in the past few weeks from 26 percent to 35 percent, according to an AP-Ipsos poll.

“The passage of this legislation will signal a change in direction in Iraq that will end the fighting and bring our troops home safely and soon,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Friday.

Earlier this month, Senate Democrats tried to push their own measure but failed when Republicans blocked debate. Republicans wanted members to be able to vote on a separate proposal by Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., that promises not to cut off funds for troops in combat.

“That remains a demand of Senate Republicans,” said Republican leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. “We think it’s fundamentally fair and totally relevant to the issue at hand.”

Several Republican senators wary of the president’s Iraq plans were expected to side with Democrats, saying they were frustrated that Senate leaders had not been able to agree on the ground rules for such an important debate.

However, Democrats were still expected to fall shy of the 60 votes needed. But Reid said the vote would still help determine where members stand.

“Let us be clear: Anyone voting ‘no’ tomorrow is voting to give the president a green light to escalate the war,” Reid said.

In the House, supporters of the nonbinding measure included 229 Democrats and 17 Republicans — fewer GOP defections than Democrats had hoped to get and the White House and its allies had feared. Two Democrats — Reps. Gene Taylor, D-Miss., and Jim Marshall, D-Ga. — joined the 180 Republicans in opposition.

Bush has already said passage of the measure will not deter him from proceeding with the deployment of another 21,500 troops, designed primarily to quell sectarian violence in heavily populated Baghdad.

Copyright © 2007 The Associated Press