House's Iraq Resolution Seeks to Walk Fine Line Democratic leaders in the House of Representatives unveil the language of the Iraq resolution they will debate for the rest of the week. The resolution takes a two-pronged approach as it seeks to support U.S. military forces in Iraq while also opposing President Bush's plan to increase troop levels by 20,000.
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House's Iraq Resolution Seeks to Walk Fine Line

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House's Iraq Resolution Seeks to Walk Fine Line

House's Iraq Resolution Seeks to Walk Fine Line

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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.

Today, Democratic leaders in the House of Representatives unveiled the language of the Iraq resolution that they'll debate for the rest of the week. The resolution takes a two-pronged approach, expressing support for U.S. military forces in Iraq while opposing the president's troop increase.

As NPR's Brian Naylor reports, while the House debates and votes on its bill, the Senate remains stalled.

BRIAN NAYLOR: The House resolution couldn't be simpler or more straightforward. It states that one, quote, "Congress and the American people will continue to support and protect the members of the United States Armed Forces, who are serving or who have served bravely and honorably in Iraq," and two, Congress disapproves of the decision of President Bush to deploy more than 20,000 additional troops to Iraq.

Missouri Democrat Ike Skelton, who chairs the House Armed Services Committee helped draft the resolution.

Representative IKE SKELTON (Democrat, Missouri): What this is is an expression of Congress, over we stand in the shoes of all the people in America. And frankly, this is not going over well across the country. It's our way of saying to the administration whoa, you shouldn't do this.

NAYLOR: The resolution puts Democrats solidly on middle ground, disapproving the surge on the one hand, as do most of those surveyed in public polls, yet not going so far as to cut off funding for troops. While cutting off funding has support among many in the Democrats' progressive wing, more conservative Democrats fear it will be seen as anti-military. The House resolution is expected to draw significant Republican support, though House Minority Leader John Boehner says the wording of the resolution is meaningless.

Representative JOHN BOEHNER (Republican, Ohio): A non-binding resolution is nothing more than political theater. That means nothing. And I believe that it demoralizes our troops in the field. And if they're really serious about their intent to bring troops home, why not bring a real resolution to the floor and have debate about whether, in fact, they should cut funding or not.

NAYLOR: But Democrats aren't going there, at least not yet. They say this resolution is a first step to put the House on record against the surge and that there will be further actions with regard to Iraq down the road. One that's likely is to attach conditions regarding troop readiness levels and funding for Iraq to the president's emergency spending request that lawmakers will act on next month.

Republicans are bristling because Democrats promised them an opportunity to offer an alternative, but reneged. Democrats say they'll get that chance in a month or so. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Lantos of California rejects the notion that this resolution is meaningless because it's non-binding.

Representative TOM LANTOS (Democrat, California): This will be the voice of the American people as expressed by their elected representatives. And as such, it's very much binding. It will be followed up by additional legislative measures as we move along. And then the voice of the Congress and the people will be heard.

NAYLOR: But it's not clear if the White House will be listening. In an interview aired on C-Span, President Bush was asked if he'll be watching the House Iraq debate. He responded, quote, "I've got a lot to do. I'm not exactly sure what hours they'll be debating, but I got a pretty full day."

Brian Naylor, NPR News, The Capitol.

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