House Democratic leaders persuaded members of their party on Thursday to limit the scope of an Iraq war resolution next week to a simple repudiation of President Bush’s troop buildup plan, hoping to temporarily set aside divisive decisions over war financing and troop redeployments.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and other party leaders met privately for more than an hour with other Democratic lawmakers. They sought to reassure Democrats that the symbolic, nonbinding resolution devised to rebuke Bush was a first step — but not a final step — toward asserting congressional powers on Iraq.
After winning control of Congress, in part because of discontent over the Iraq war, Democrats are eager to send a strong signal of disapproval to the White House. To make the proposal palatable to at least some Republicans, the Democratic leaders said their resolution would express support for the troops, but reject the plan to send 21,500 more of them to Iraq.
The American people “called for a new direction,” Pelosi said, “and no place do they want that direction to be more clear than in the war in Iraq.”
The debate in the House, set to begin next Thursday, comes after consideration of an Iraq war resolution faltered in the Senate. Republicans and Democrats quarreled over a series of competing resolutions but failed to reach a compromise, prompting House leaders to schedule their first major Iraq debate since assuming the majority last month.
A growing number of House Democrats, though, say they believe time has expired for a symbolic resolution that will have little affect on the White House.
Rep. Joe Sestak, D-Pa., a former three-star admiral who was elected in November, introduced legislation on Thursday calling for American troops to be withdrawn from Iraq by the year’s end. Under his plan, financing for the American forces in Iraq would expire on Dec. 31.
“The nonbinding resolution is a necessary step, but it’s insufficient,” Sestak said in an interview on Thursday.
The discussion in the House, scheduled to last 36 hours, will allow each member of Congress to speak for five minutes about Iraq. While Democrats said they would allow Republicans an opportunity to propose an alternative plan, it remained an open question what kind of latitude Republicans would actually have during the debate.