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US Lawmakers Begin Debate on President's Iraq Troop Buildup


The U.S. House of Representatives has begun the first major congressional debate on President Bush's Iraq strategy since Democrats won control of Congress in last November's mid-term election. VOA's Dan Robinson reports lawmakers began the first of three days of debate on a non-binding resolution disapproving of President Bush's decision to send additional troops to Iraq.

Democrats are getting the full-scale debate on the president's Iraq policies they say Republicans largely avoided when they controlled the House. While voicing disapproval of the additional troop deployment to Iraq, the Democratic-crafted resolution states that Congress and the American people will continue to support and protect U.S. troops who are serving or have served in Iraq.

"In the spirit of responsibility to our troops, and the patriotism we all share, let us consider whether the president's escalation proposal will lessen the violence in Iraq, and bring our troops home safely and soon," said Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Minority leader John Boehner says the resolution amounts to criticism of the mission of U.S. troops, and describes the debate as a choice between victory in Iraq and the wider war on terrorism, and defeat.

"Many of my friends across the aisle think this is exactly what we should do, give up and leave. This non-binding resolution is the first step toward abandoning Iraq by cutting off funding for our troops that are in harm's way," he said.

That brings this response from House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer who says it should be clear to Americans that Democrats do not support any move that would result in putting troops at risk.

"The Republicans are trying to make the argument that this is about the fight on terrorism. Let me make it very clear that Democrats are absolutely committed to winning the war against those who would employ terrorism to hurt our people and to put at risk our country. Period," he said.

But the Democratic leadership supports steps to link dollars in President Bush's $93 billion request for Iraq and Afghanistan to specific requirements that military units be fully prepared, in terms of training and equipment.

House Speaker Pelosi appeared to refer to this when she said a statement of disapproval when the House votes on Friday will "set the stage" for additional Iraq-related legislation.

Controlling the House with a 233 to 202 majority, Democratic leaders hope to get at least 25 and possibly as many as 60 Republicans to support the resolution.

At the White House, presidential spokesman Tony Snow appeared to signal that the White House is preparing for upcoming legislative battles.

"There are going to come time when they are going to have an opportunity to vote on continued support for the forces in the field, and this is something that we will be discussing with members of both houses [of Congress] and both parties as well, in terms of providing the support so that those who are reinforcing forces on the ground and a new and redesigned mission in terms of dealing with the problems of violence in Iraq are going to be able to be there for their comrades to help finish the job," he said.

The House debate comes amid one new poll by USA Today/Gallup that shows 63 percent of Americans want all U.S. troops to return home from Iraq by 2008.