WASHINGTON – House Republicans maneuvered for swift rejection Friday of any notion of immediately pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq, sparking a nasty, sometimes personal debate over the war and a Democratic lawmaker’s own call for withdrawal.
Furious Democrats accused the GOP of orchestrating a political stunt, leaving little time for debate and changing the meaning of a withdrawal resolution offered by Democratic Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania.
For those reasons, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi sent word to rank-and-file Democrats to vote – with the Republicans – against immediate withdrawal of American troops.
Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., said of the nonbinding resolution, “We want to make sure that we support our troops that are fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. We will not retreat.”
Democrats went to the floor to denounce the vote, being staged before Congress left Washington for a two week break. And they gave Murtha a standing ovation as he entered the chamber Friday during the Iraq debate and took his customary corner seat.
“This is a personal attack on one of the best members, one of the most respected members of this House and it is outrageous,” said Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass.
Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, responded: “This is not a stunt. This is not an attack on an individual. This is a legitimate question.”
GOP leaders decided to act little more than 24 hours after Murtha, a hawkish Democrat with close ties to the military, said the time had come to pull out the troops.
By forcing the issue to a vote, Republicans tried to place many Democrats in a politically unappealing position – whether to side with Murtha and expose themselves to criticism, or oppose him and risk angering the voters that polls show want an end to the conflict…
A growing number of House members and senators, looking ahead to off-year elections next November, are publicly worrying about a quagmire in Iraq. They have been staking out new positions on a war that is increasingly unpopular with the American public, has resulted in more than 2,000 U.S. military deaths and has cost more than $200 billion…