The resolution, if it passes, as seems certain with a Democratic majority in the House, would have no binding effect on President Bush's plans to expand American military involvement in Iraq. But the nonbinding nature of the proposal did not diminish the passion of the debate in the House.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California set the tone for the Democratic side of the aisle, reflecting the voice of an electorate that, last November, swept Republicans out of control of the House and the Senate, making it possible for Pelosi to become the first woman to serve as Speaker of the House.
"The American people have lost faith in President Bush's course of action in Iraq, and they are demanding a new direction," Pelosi told her House colleagues. "On January 10th, President Bush proposed deploying more than 20,000 additional combat troops into Iraq. This week, we will debate his escalation. In doing so, we must be mindful of the sacrifices our military personnel are being asked to make in this war and the toll it is taking on them, on their families and on our veterans. Each one of us must determine in a manner worthy of their sacrifice whether the president's proposal will make America safer, make our military stronger, and make the region more stable. As this debate begins, let us be clear on one fundamental principle: We all support the troops."
Minority Leader John Boehner, a Republican from Ohio, was dismissive of the resolution, as were many of his colleagues who spoke during the day.
"This is a political charade lacking both the seriousness and the gravity of the issue that it's meant to represent," Boehner said. "And as I said before, the question before us today isn't actually in this resolution. I think it's much more fundamental. The question is: Do we have the resolve necessary to defeat our terrorist enemies? Will we stand and fight for the future of our kids and theirs? And as President Eisenhower once said, 'History does not long entrust the care of freedom to the weak or the timid.' Does Congress have the fortitude to do what needs to be done? Our soldiers do. The men and women in our military are the greatest force for freedom that the world has ever known. They are brave, they are committed and they can win this fight if we ask them to. I think the big question is: Will we support them? My colleagues, the world is watching. The question is: How will we respond?"
All members of the House will be given the opportunity to offer their responses as the House debate on the Iraq war resolution continues Wednesday and Thursday. It is expected to finish late Thursday or Friday, with a vote expected before Congress goes into recess for the Presidents Day weekend.