House Holds Marathon Debate on Bush's Iraq Plan

The House holds its third day of debate on a nonbinding resolution opposing the troop increase in Iraq. All representatives have been offered time to speak their minds. Also, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says that the Senate will take a vote Saturday on moving ahead with a debate on a similar resolution.

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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

On Capitol Hill, the Senate is taking a page from the House of Representatives when it comes to debating Iraq. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says he wants the Senate to break its procedural deadlock by taking up the House's streamlined Iraq bill.

Senator HARRY REID (Democrat, Nevada): We demand an up or down vote on the resolution that the House is debating as we speak. The resolution says we support the troops and we oppose the escalation of the presence in Iraq.

SIEGEL: Reid says the Senate will hold a vote this Saturday on whether to move forward.

NORRIS: Over in the House, things are moving forward ahead of a vote tomorrow. The debate continued for a third straight day. Each member has been given five minutes to speak on the floor.

Representative BILL PASCRELL (Democrat, New Jersey): This resolution does not help make progress in Iraq. It does not provide a new approach in Iraq.

Representative STEPHANIE TUBBS JONES (Democrat, Ohio): I'm not ashamed that I want my troops to come home. I'm not ashamed to say that the babies that have died in Iraq that come from Cleveland's -

Representative BILL SALI (Republican, Idaho): It is stunning to me that this body will consume over 36 hours of floor debate on a non-binding resolution.

Representative GEOFF DAVIS (Republican, Kentucky): The president's escalation plan offers an illusion, but only the real hope is that it offers a curic(ph) victory at best.

SIEGEL: The voices of Democrat Bill Pascrell of New Jersey, Republican Bill Sali of Idaho, Democrat Stephanie Tubbs Jones of Ohio and Republican Geoff Davis of Kentucky.

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House Members Clash on Iraq Resolution's Impact

Recap and Analysis

Download an MP3 of NPR coverage and analysis of the House debate.

On the third day of the debate over a nonbinding resolution on Iraq in the House of Representatives, Republicans and Democrats clash over whether the measure amounts to a vote of no-confidence in the troops.

Another possibility, opponents of the resolution say, is that it could embolden America's enemies.

But supporters of the measure say that it is necessary to send a message to the White House that U.S. policy in Iraq must change.

The resolution disapproves of President Bush's troop surge in Iraq, but it also seeks to express support for the American troops who are already deployed.

Thursday, Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) said that President Bush and his advisers aren't living in the real world.

"Tragically, the president and his administration are dealing with an Iraq that exists only in their imagination," Schakowsky said.

President Bush has said that resolution or no, he's going ahead with his plan to add 21,500 American troops to Iraq. In fact, the so-called troop "surge" has already begun, as has a campaign to secure Baghdad.

Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) called for sticking with the president's plan in Iraq until the country has a stable and functional democratic government.

"Believe me, there are consequences to losing the war, and these are real," Cole said. "If we are not successful in Iraq, we will have an emboldened enemy. Not just the terrorists that we deal with — they're bad enough — but also the states that use terrorism as a tool of diplomacy. States like Iran, states like Syria, will draw comfort."

But Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) disputed that idea, and laid the blame for escalating violence on the White House, which he said took the wrong course after Sept. 11, 2001.

"The central front on the war on terrorism was largely abandoned by President Bush in his ideological rush to invade Iraq," Doggett said. "Vital resources and expertise that were needed to capture Osama bin Laden and the terrorists who caused 9/11 were cut in Afghanistan when President Bush ran into Iraq."

But supporting the current resolution is tantamount to admitting failure and defeat, said Rep. Ander Crenshaw (R-FL), who urged anyone who supports the measure to go even further than it does — and work to cut funding for the war. The best option, Crenshaw said, is to support President Bush's plan for a larger U.S. military presence.

"It may not be perfect and, quite frankly, it may not work, but it's there," Crenshaw said. "And every American, Democrats and Republicans alike, ought to hope this plan succeeds. Because it may very well be our last, best chance to prevent a catastrophic failure in Iraq."

Debate over the House resolution will continue for most of Friday. With seemingly unanimous support of the majority-party Democrats and some Republicans who have spoken in favor of the measure, it is expected to be approved when a vote is held, either late Friday or over the weekend.