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US Congressman Apologizes for Remarks on Iraq


A Democratic lawmaker has apologized for remarks he made last week about the war in Iraq that angered opposition Republicans and were also condemned by fellow Democrats. VOA's Dan Robinson reports from Capitol Hill, where Congressman Pete Stark's apology came after the House of Representatives rejected by a vote of 196 to 173 a Republican attempt to formally reprimand him.

Congressman Stark's comments last week came as the House prepared for an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to override President Bush's veto of legislation to re-authorize and expand a children's health insurance program.

In arguing in favor of their measure, Democrats asserted that President Bush and Republicans were unable to find the funds for medical insurance for children while spending tens of billions of dollars on the war in Iraq.

At one point in the debate, Congressman Stark came to the floor and made these remarks. "You don't have money to fund the war or children. But you're going to spend it, to blow up innocent people if we can get enough kids to grow old enough for you to send to Iraq, to get their heads blown off, for the president's amusement."

Stark's statement, which was widely published, provoked anger from Republicans who accused Stark of insulting the president and the U.S. military.

Democratic House speaker Nancy Pelosi issued a statement calling the remarks inappropriate. House majority leader Steny Hoyer used stronger words, calling on Stark to apologize to the president and U.S. troops he may have insulted.

On Tuesday, the House Republican leader, John Boehner, introduced a measure to censure Stark. "On behalf of the courageous men and women of our armed forces, who are putting their lives on the line for our freedom and security, I offer a privileged resolution that is on the desk," he said.

The House rejected the resolution by a vote of 196 to 173.

Stark, who had come under pressure from the Democratic leadership, came to the floor. "I want to apologize, first of all, my colleagues, many of whom I have offended, to the president, his family, to the troops that may have found in my remarks as were suggested in the motion that we just voted on," he said.

In a weekly news conference later, Democratic leaders described the matter as closed, and sought to turn the media's attention to what Democrats say will be a new attempt to pass the children's health measure, and negotiations with Republicans and the Bush administration about another bill dealing with warrantless electronic surveillance.

In recent years, Republicans and Democrats have fallen afoul of rules allowing the opposition party to demand that remarks on the floor be taken down or removed from the record.

During a 2005 debate on Iraq, a Republican lawmaker Jean Schmidt apologized for a statement suggesting that a key anti-war critic, Congressman Jack Murtha, was a coward.

Murtha himself issued an apology earlier this year for threatening a special spending request, known as an earmark, of a Republican lawmaker who questioned Murtha's own special interest spending provision for his home district.

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