Debates on Iraq Dominate Congress For the first time since the U.S. led the recent invasion of Iraq, the House and Senate are both debating the war. In the House, Democrats are attacking the policies of President Bush, while Republicans are defending them as part of the war on terror.
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Debates on Iraq Dominate Congress

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Debates on Iraq Dominate Congress

Debates on Iraq Dominate Congress

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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.

The argument over the war in Iraq is heating up on Capitol Hill. Just as the Senate gave final approval for tens of billions of dollars in emergency funding for Iraq, both chambers of Congress launched into heated debates over the war. Republicans hope to revive support. Democrats are torn over how soon U.S. troops should be withdrawn from Iraq. We'll hear from our regular political observers on the matter in a few minutes.

First, NPR's David Welna has this report on the day's events on Capitol Hill.

DAVID WELNA reporting:

House Republicans have put what's basically a take it or leave it resolution up for debate and a vote today and are allowing no amendments to change its language. House Armed Services Chairman Duncan Hunter cast the document as asking, are you with us or against us, a question presumably aimed at House Democrats.

Representative DUNCAN HUNTER (Republican, California): The main message that is manifested in this resolution is that we shouldn't have an arbitrary cutoff point, an arbitrary deadline, and secondly that we will complete this mission. Let's send this message to every soldier, every Marine who's watching this thing from the mess halls in Mosel and Tikrit and Baghdad and Fallujah, the message that the United States House of Representatives stands with them.

WELNA: Pennsylvania Democrat John Murtha, who once supported the Iraq War but now urges that U.S. troops be withdrawn, gave his party's response.

Representative JOHN MURTHA (Democrat, Pennsylvania): I disagree with the policy. I don't disagree with supporting the troops. There's no one supports the troops better than the members of this Congress.

WELNA: Meanwhile in the Senate, Democrats seized on a Washington Post report quoting Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki as promising an amnesty for Iraqis not involved in the shedding of Iraqi blood. New Jersey's Robert Menendez said this meant implicitly that those who killed American troops in Iraq would get an amnesty and he offered a resolution demanding Iraq retract that amnesty.

Senator ROBERT MENENDEZ (Democrat, New Jersey): President Bush, you went to Iraq and you said you wanted to look into the eyes of Prime Minister Maliki to know that he was a man you could trust, a man who would move us forward. Mr. President, I don't know how deep you looked into his soul, but you've got to pick up the phone today and tell Prime Minister Maliki that we will not have the ability to pardon anyone with the blood and lives of American soldiers.

WELNA: Some Senate Republicans came to Iraq's defense. Here's John Cornyn of Texas.

Senator JOHN CORNYN (Republican, Texas): If we expect the Iraqis to solve their problem, I don't think we ought to be making veto threats over their attempts to engage in national reconciliation.

WELNA: But later on the floor of the Senate, Republican Whip Mitch McConnell said Iraq's National Security Adviser had made clear today that there would be no amnesty for those who kill Americans in Iraq. McConnell had a proposal.

Senator MITCH McCONNELL (Republican, Kentucky): Might it not just be as useful an exercise to be trying to pass a resolution commending the Iraqi government for the position that they've taken today with regard to this discussion of amnesty?

WELNA: But in fact McConnell changed the subject by bringing up someone else's amendment, one that Senate Democrats are divided over.

Senator McCONNELL: The amendment I've sent to the desk is the amendment that I believe the Senator from Massachusetts, Senator Kerry, had indicated that he was going to be offering today so that we can have an appropriate debate on this very important day about whether or not it is appropriate to withdraw American troops by the end of 2006.

WELNA: Many Democrats see Kerry's amendment as material for Republican attack ads this fall and Florida Democrat Bill Nelson, who faces reelection, rushed to clarify his position.

Senator BILL NELSON (Democrat, Florida): This senator clearly doesn't support pulling the troops out of Iraq.

WELNA: But Majority Leader Bill Frist seemed delighted with the new direction the floor debate had taken.

Senator BILL FRIST (Republican, Tennessee): What about if we did cut and run? Yeah, I know we hear that discussion of a rapid withdrawal, so in many ways I'm glad this amendment has come to the floor that has been put on this floor by Senator Kerry.

WELNA: But the Republican's move was swiftly countered by Minority Leader Harry Reid.

Senator HARRY REID (Democrat, Nevada): This is the McConnell amendment. It is not the Kerry amendment. People have the right to file amendments. They can decide whether or not they want to offer them or modify them or change them. I move to table the McConnell amendment and ask for the yeas and nays.

WELNA: And by a vote of 93 to 6, the Senate tabled the amendment calling for a troop pullout by year's end. Kerry, who was one of the six voting not to table, said he'll bring up his amendment next week.

David Welna, NPR News, the Capitol.

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