US House: No to more troops for Iraq


THE Democrats have fired the first salvo in the battle with President George W. Bush over the war in Iraq.

The House of Representatives – with Democrats in the majority – voted on Friday to pass a non-binding resolution opposing Mr Bush’s plan to send more combat troops to Baghdad.

The move, a rare rebuke of a US president’s wartime authority, could set the stage for a constitutional fight over funding for the military effort in Iraq.

The vote, although highly symbolic, could mark a turning point in the war, according to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

“The passage of legislation will signal a change in direction in Iraq that will end the fighting and bring our troops back home,” she said.

“The stakes in Iraq are too high to recycle proposals that have little prospect for success.”

Other Democrats warned the President to take heed.

“If need be, Congress will end this war – with binding legislation,” said Democratic congressman Allan Mollohan, a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee.

Democrats gained control of the two houses of Congress in an election late last year, mostly because of voter disaffection with the war.

The Senate was due to meet in a rare session yesterday for a vote on whether their chamber would take up the House resolution, which passed easily 246 -182 with the support of 17 Republicans.

Republican Whip Roy Blunt of Missouri noted that defections were fewer than the 40 to 60 some had expected, and said the Democrats now faced divisions in the debate over whether to restrict war funds.

“The future of this debate is much more unifying for us and much more dividing for them,” he maintained.

The Democrats, however, saw the vote as the first round of several more against a beleaguered administration.

Clearly, troop funding will be central to the whole debate on Iraq in the coming months. But Democrats have so far been far from united on how to restrict Mr Bush’s use of US$93.4 billion (S$143 billion) in new war funds. Some fear restricting funds could be seen as failing to support US troops.

One suggestion has been not to cut money for troops abroad, but attach conditions on war funds that would force Mr Bush to halt the troop build-up in Iraq.

The Bush administration, which saw this political defeat coming, sought to focus on the impending battle over the war’s funding.

White House spokesman Tony Snow said: “Soon, Congress will have the opportunity to show its support for the troops in Iraq by funding the request the President has submitted, and which our men and women in combat are counting on.”

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