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US House Rejects President's Plan for More Troops in Iraq

After four days of debate, the House of Representatives has approved, by a vote of 246 to 182, a non-binding resolution disapproving of President Bush's new troop deployment to Iraq. Majority Democrats call the vote a major step toward forcing a new direction on Iraq, while Republicans allege it sets the stage for Democrats to drain resources from, and attempt to block, further military operations. VOA's Dan Robinson is on Capitol Hill.

House approval, confirmed by the Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi, sets the stage for a procedural vote and debate in the Senate on the same resolution which disapproves of the president's troop plan, but pledges support for U.S. troops.

Democrats claimed victory, saying passage sends a strong message to President Bush about his plan to send an additional 21,500 troops to Iraq.

Iraq war veteran and new Democratic member of Congress Patrick Murphy says it also sends this message to Iraqis. "Until the Iraqis come off the sidelines and stand up for Iraq, their country, we are just going to keep running in place," he said.

Democrats play down the fact that predictions that as many as 60 Republicans would support the resolution did not come to pass. Only 17 Republicans crossed party lines, while two Democrats voted against the measure.

Meanwhile, Democratic strategies aimed at placing legislative roadblocks in the way of the president on Iraq are becoming clearer.

Democrat John Murtha outlined plans to accomplish this by requiring that troops designated for deployment to Iraq be fully prepared in terms of equipment and training.

He would limit combat deployments to one year, require that soldiers have at least one year at home between deployments, and prohibit the Pentagon from using a procedure to extend military enlistments.

Murtha detailed his proposals in an interview with the Web site "We are trying to force a redeployment, not by taking money away [from the troops] but by re-directing money," he said.

House Republican leaders call Murtha's plans proof that Democrats will eventually attempt to cut off all funding for military operations in Iraq.

On the final day of debate, Republican Steve King accused Democrats of playing into the hands of terrorists. "If Mr. Murtha and the people who are working with him are successful in a slow bleed of our resources, then what you will see is Osama bin-Laden say, if we keep attacking America they will leave Afghanistan the same way they left Vietnam, Lebanon, Mogadishu and Iraq," he said.

While she supports Congressman Murtha, Speaker Pelosi rejects Republican suggestions that Democrats do not support the military.

After directing the House to observe a moment of silence for the more than 3,000 U.S. troops killed in Iraq, she said Democrats intend to force a change in direction. "The stakes in Iraq are too high to recycle proposals that have little prospect for success. The bipartisan resolution today may be non-binding but it will send a strong message [that] we here in Congress are committed to protecting and supporting our troops," he said.

House Republicans appeared earlier with Senate counterparts to denounce what they call dangerous plans that attempt to micro-manage the military.

"There is no question that the Democrats in the House and Senate intend to tie the president's hands when it comes to the conduct of war in Iraq," said John Boehner, House minority leader.

Speaking before the vote Friday, Presidential spokesman Tony Snow had this comment. "Members of Congress are taking their own gamble here. They are gambling on failure. The president has a plan for success, it is all aimed at success," he said.

On Saturday, the U.S. Senate will be in session for a procedural vote that may clear the way for similar debate on Iraq there.

Majority leader Harry Reid will bring the House resolution to the Senate floor. But Republicans are pushing for a debate on a separate resolution that would oppose any cutoff of funds for Iraq.