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This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made an unannounced visit to Baghdad today where she met with the troops, U.S. embassy personnel and Iraq's prime minister. She was on her way to Jerusalem for talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. We'll have more on that trip in a moment.
But first, the debate over Iraq moves to the U.S. Senate. Yesterday the House passed resolution disapproving of the President Bush's troop buildup. The Senate will need 60 votes to even consider it. A test vote will be taken later today. NPR's Andrea Seabrook reports on the week in Congress.
ANDREA SEABROOK: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi grasped the gavel in the well of the House to take the final vote on the Iraq resolution.
Representative NANCY PELOSI (Democrat, California; Speaker of the House): The question is on adoption of the concurrent resolution. Those in favor say aye.
Rep. PELOSI: Those opposed, no.
Rep. PELOSI: In opinion of the chair, the ayes have it.
SEABROOK: The actual numbers? The roll call showed 246 in favor, 182 against, and the House on record officially disapproving of the president's Iraq war strategy.
By the Democratic leader's count, the debate lasted just under 45 hours, and nearly 400 members of Congress spoke on the floor. The Democrats mostly spoke of the mistakes in Iraq, the previous surges that haven't ended in success and the mandate they feel from American voters to change the direction of the war.
The Republicans mostly warned of undermining the mission of the troops or giving comfort and advantage to the terrorist enemy.
But by far the most compelling words came when members of Congress spoke of those who fought and died in Iraq. Republican Walter Jones was a co-sponsor of this resolution, though in 2002 he was a staunch supporter of the president and an attack on Iraq. The Marines' Camp Lejeune and other military bases are in his North Carolina district.
Jones said he started to change his mind about the war after the funeral of Sergeant Michael Bitz, who left a wife and three kids when he died, including twins born after he deployed.
Representative WALTER JONES (Republican, North Carolina): And at the funeral, the wife read the last letter, word for word. She cried and I cried too, by God. Then I started questioning, was the intelligence given to the Congress and American people, was it verified, was it true?
SEABROOK: Jones became one of the most outspoken critics of the Iraq war, and yesterday he was among the 17 Republicans who voted for the Democrats' resolution.
Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio also spoke of fallen soldiers who were constituents and their families left behind, and said they are exactly the reason to vote against the resolution.
Representative JOHN BOEHNER (Republican, Ohio): My friends on the other side have described this nonbinding resolution as their first step. It is their first step. It's the first step in a plan to cut off funding and reinforcements for American troops in harm's way.
SEABROOK: Boehner claimed Democrats' next step would be to micromanage the war through the budget process. And in fact, Democrats have been calling for more of what they call oversight. The chairman of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, Pennsylvania's John Murtha, told reporters this week he is combing the president's war funding request, and may even pull money meant to fund the troop surge.
But Democrats say that is not the same as defunding the troops. Several lawmakers told NPR they want to invest instead in better training and equipment for the troops before they've deployed. That would be hard for Republicans to oppose, and it could have the effect of equipping and training a troop buildup instead of actually having one, which is exactly the idea.
Andrea Seabrook, NPR News, the Capitol.
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