The origins of the war in Iraq were debated Wednesday by a key congressional panel as Democrats and Republicans continue to exchange words over the question of pre-war intelligence.
The debate took place as the House International Relations Committee considered a resolution of inquiry demanding that the Bush administration turn over documents Democrats say would provide a clearer picture of how intelligence was used in the months leading to the Iraq war.
A resolution of inquiry is a rare House [of Representatives] procedure lawmakers can use to obtain documents and other information from the executive branch of government.
In recent months, Democrats have used this legislative tactic as they accused Republicans of failing to adequately investigate pre-war intelligence, and the controversial case involving the leaking of the identity of a CIA officer whose husband is a critic of administration justifications for going to war.
Republicans have long argued that everyone who supported military action in the months leading to Congress approving a key resolution in late 2002 did so on the basis of the same available intelligence, noting that many key Democrats voted for the war.
Republicans argue that many Democrats had accepted the thinking that Saddam Hussein posed a threat and that he was pursuing weapons of mass destruction.
Based on this, committee chairman Congressman Henry Hyde argued strenuously against the Democratic resolution.
"I think this is a political effort to embarrass the president," said Mr. Hyde. "I don't care how we got into the war, that we will have to argue until doomsday. But one thing I do know, we'd better win. We'd better not lose this war. We'd better not get chased out of the Middle East. And if that happens it will be a disaster."
Democratic Congressman Robert Menendez responded that Congress has an obligation to seek all the information it can obtain about the reasons underlying the Bush administration decision to go to war in Iraq.
"It is past time for Congress to take back its right to act as a check and balance against the executive," said Mr. Menendez. "It is past time for Congress to fulfill its obligation to the American people and demand information on the Iraq war and the leaking of the name of a CIA operative. It is past time for Congress to fulfill its responsibility to oversee the president and the executive branch."
As has been the case when similar resolutions came before Republican controlled committees, the Democratic proposal was voted down, this time by a vote of 25 to 23.
The vote by the committee, which will send the resolution to the full House of Representatives with what is called an unfavorable recommendation, virtually assures the Democratic initiative will not go any further.
The resolution of inquiry sought documents, emails and other records relating to the White House Iraq Group, which consisted of a number of officials who were the driving force behind President Bush's determination to invade Iraq on the basis of weapons of mass destruction.
Officials named in the resolution included Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, Andrew Card and Karl Rove, White House Chief of Staff and Deputy Chief of Staff respectively, and I. Lewis Libby, who has been indicted in connection with the case involving a leak of the identity of a CIA officer, Valerie Plame.