MICHELE NORRIS, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.
More emotional debate today in the House of Representatives on the war in Iraq. It ended with passage of a Republican-drafted resolution that rejects setting a date for withdrawing U.S. troops from the conflict. Forty-two Democrats crossed party lines in that vote. With midterm elections less than five months away, Republicans sought to portray Democrats as weak on defense, while Democrats cast Republicans as embracing a war most Americans have turned against.
Here's NPR's David Welna.
DAVID WELNA reporting:
For many House Republicans, the 13-hour-long debate on Iraq was a political gift, it gave them a chance to pummel those who say it's time to get out of Iraq. Here's North Carolina's Patrick McHenry.
Representative PATRICK McHENRY (Republican, North Carolina): The left in this country have a policy they're advocating here today, Mr. Speaker. And they're advocating a policy called cut and run. They're advocating a policy of waving the white flag to our enemies.
WELNA: Only three Republicans voted against the resolution, while another two voted present. But even some who voted for it, such as Virginia's Tom Davis, expressed misgivings about how much longer U.S. troops should remain in Iraq.
Representative TOM DAVIS (Republican, Virginia): We can't pull the rug out from under the Iraqis, but we can't babysit the situation either. We don't have time to waste on activities that are ineffective. We don't have money to waste on bad equipment and services.
WELNA: Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said the GOP-drafted resolution was nothing more than an affirmation of support for what she called President Bush's failed policies in Iraq. Pelosi declared she would oppose it.
Representative NANCY PELOSI (Democrat, California): Because here we have the Republicans putting on the floor a vacuous resolution, a challenge that if you want to say that you support the troops, you have to vote for this. That day is over.
WELNA: Pelosi also voted against the resolution authorizing the use of force in Iraq three and a half years ago. New York Democrat Anthony Weiner did vote for that resolution, but not the one approved today.
Representative ANTHONY WEINER (Democrat, New York): And now I'm where many of my constituents and many Americans are, where we can see that a correction is needed and a change of path is needed. And I think that frankly, overwhelmingly the American people, if they had a chance to stand in this chamber, would have voted against this resolution.
WELNA: Many of the Democrats who voted for today's resolution are from districts that President Bush carried. Dennis Moore of Kansas says he voted affirmatively with reservations, and adds he did not feel any pressure to do otherwise.
Representative DENNIS MOORE (Democrat, Kansas): Nobody asked me in the party to vote one way or the other.
WELNA: And so Democrats come out of this vote appearing to be divided on this issue.
Representative MOORE: Well, I think that's probably a correct reflection. There is some division in the party on this issue.
WELNA: In contrast, Republicans say they feel Iraq is finally an issue that works in their favor. Minnesota's Gil Gutknecht, who faces a strong challenger next fall, says he's now eager to talk about Iraq.
Representative GIL GUTKNECHT (Republican, Minnesota): I think this debate really began to change the dimensions. We essentially have been playing rope-a-dope for three years. And now I think we've demonstrated we're prepared to go on offense.
WELNA: Asked today about how Iraq will affect his party's prospects in the November 7th elections, Senate Democrat leader Harry Reid said that's not why the war is important.
Senator HARRY REID (Democrat, Nevada): We feel it's today. It's not November 7. Where's the plan? Where's the president's plan to get us out of Iraq? He's the Commander-in-Chief. We're not.
WELNA: Senate Democrats are struggling to find common ground for a resolution on withdrawing troops from Iraq. Yesterday, the Senate laid aside an amendment drawn up by Massachusetts Democrat John Kerry but introduced by Senate Republicans to redeploy troops by year's end. Kerry says he intends to reintroduce that amendment next week.
Senator JOHN KERRY (Democrat, Massachusetts): This is a debate I look forward to. This is a debate I want to have on the floor of the Senate, and this is a debate we will have on the floor of the Senate.
WELNA: Majority Leader Bill Frist today seemed to relish that prospect.
Senator BILL FRIST (Republican, Tennessee): I think debating a cut-and-run strategy is a debate that, at least from a leadership standpoint, we're willing to have.
WELNA: David Welna, NPR News, the Capitol.
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