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On the second day of the House of Representatives' debate of a resolution protesting President Bush's plan to boost U.S. troop levels in Iraq, the president sidestepped the substance of the resolution itself in a morning press conference.
Referring to the measure's nonbinding status, Mr. Bush said it will ultimately matter more what the House does with the funding decisions it must make in the weeks to come.
That is a point Republicans in the House have made repeatedly in the floor debate this week. They have predicted that Democrats will soon attempt to revise, reduce or even cut off funds for operations in Iraq — at least for operations relevant to President Bush's proposed buildup.
But today, the debate briefly took a new turn when the managers of the resolution brought on roughly a dozen Republicans who plan to vote for the anti-buildup resolution and were willing to say so in floor speeches. Most were party moderates who have expressed displeasure with the war before, but the group included some of the Southern conservatives who more typically form the hardcore base of support for the president.
Among the moderates was Mike Castle (R-DE), who said he backed the resolution "because I believe that the surge will be unsuccessful without a comprehensive, diplomatic strategy to engage the international community and turn responsibility over to the Iraqi government."
Like Castle, several Republicans regretted the Bush administration's refusal to follow diplomatic proposals from the Iraq Study Group, a bipartisan panel that issued a report late last year. One was Wayne Gilchrest (R-MD).
"For young men and women who are brave enough to go into Iraq and Afghanistan," Gilchrest said, "then we as members of Congress must be brave enough and informed to start a dialogue in Damascus, in Tehran, in the entire region to hasten peace."
Also speaking in favor of the anti-buildup resolution were Reps. Ron Paul of Texas, Tom Davis of Virginia, Steve Latourette of Ohio, Phil English of Pennsylvania, Ric Keller of Florida, Jim Ramstad of Minnesota, Walter Jones and Howard Coble of North Carolina and Fred Upton of Michigan. Each of those states, except Michigan, saw Republican incumbents defeated last November — in large measure because of the war.
But while the defectors made the news, the great majority of Republicans speaking on the second full day of debate hewed to the line their leaders sounded yesterday. They mocked the nonbinding nature of the resolution but said it would undermine the confidence of U.S. commander David Petraeus in Iraq, discourage the troops, embolden terrorists and make the U.S. less safe.