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US House of Representatives Set to Debate Iraq Resolution

The U.S. House of Representatives begins three days of debate Tuesday on a non-binding resolution disapproving of President Bush's decision to send additional troops to Iraq. VOA's Dan Robinson reports from Capitol Hill, majority Democrats backing the measure are hoping for support from some Republicans in a final vote expected Friday.

With two short paragraphs and anticipated support from some Republicans, Democrats hope to send a message to the president about his troop increase for Iraq.

The first sentence states that Congress and the American people will continue to support and protect U.S. troops who are serving or have served in Iraq.

The measure goes on to state that Congress disapproves of President Bush's decision, announced on January 10, to deploy more than 20,000 additional troops to Iraq.

By avoiding inflammatory or provocative language, such as using the term escalation to describe the deployment, Democrats hope more Republicans will be willing to go on record in support of the measure. "We believe this is a very serious debate. We believe that, frankly, for four years the Congress [under Republicans] has been complacent and complicit therefore in the policies [in Iraq] that have been pursued," said Steny Hoyer, House majority leader.

House minority leader John Boehner calls the debate meaningless: "A non-binding resolution is nothing more than political theater, that means nothing," he said.

Republican leaders argue that any floor debate on the Democratic measure should allow them to propose alternative measures.

They favor one stating congressional opposition to any cut off of, or restriction on, funding for forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, and another to create a bipartisan committee to monitor Iraqi government compliance with U.S. benchmarks.

Briefing reporters Monday, presidential spokesman Tony Snow said members of Congress are free to express themselves, but should consider the impact of their votes on the morale of U.S. troops. "Members need to understand that words to travel and they need to assess what impact they think they may hav," he said.

In the Senate, Democrats and Republicans rose to urge their leaders to overcome procedural disagreements that halted progress toward a similar debate in that chamber last week. "We have duty as U.S. senators to fully debate this issue and to go on record on what we believe to be the appropriate strategy, the road ahead in Iraq," said Republican Senator Susan Collins.

Stronger words came from Senator Chuck Hagel, a Republican who has become a key critic of the president's strategy for Iraq. "The American people have had enough of the misrepresentations, the politics, and the procedural intrigue here in the U.S. Senate, and I say again to our distinguished leaders of both of our parties, it is your responsibility as leaders of this body to resolve this procedural dispute so the Senate can have a full, fair and open debate on the war in Iraq," he said.

House Democrats have allotted five minutes for each of the 435 members of the chamber to speak on Iraq, stretching over three days, with sessions expected to last until midnight each day.