Democrats unveiled a resolution on Monday that would formally express the House’s disapproval of President Bush’s troop buildup in Iraq, beginning an intense debate and political struggle that is to end in a vote on Friday.
The nonbinding resolution, two simple clauses that also express support for the troops, is expected to pass with overwhelming Democratic support but also with a bloc of votes from Republicans increasingly disenchanted with the administration’s Iraq policy.
“I’m just not convinced that deploying 20,000 additional troops is going to resolve anything favorable for us,” said Rep. Howard Coble, R-N.C., who estimated that 20 to 25 Republicans would vote for the resolution, although other estimates ran higher.
Republicans who take umbrage at those who break ranks, he said, need to face political reality. “We lost our majority in the Congress last November primarily because of the issue of the Iraq war,” he said, adding that telephone calls and letters to his office are critical, by 10 to 1, of the conduct of the war.
Republican leaders tried to hold the line.
In an interview on Monday with C-Span, President Bush suggested that he would not be focused on the week’s discussions on Capitol Hill. “In terms of watching the debate, I’ve got a lot to do,” he said. “It’s not as if the world stops when the Congress does.”
Rep. John A. Boehner, the Republican leader, said the Democrats’ resolution was “the first step in the Democrats’ plan to cut off funding for American troops who are in harm’s way.” He urged consideration of an alternative resolution that renounces any cuts in financing.
Democrats scoffed at the Republican charges as an attempt to distract from the fundamental debate over Bush’s war strategy.
“They’re trying to do everything but focus on the policy,” said Rep. Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, chairman of the Democratic Caucus. “The more there’s a focus on the escalation, the more they lose Republicans.”
Democrats are planning 36 hours of floor debate, beginning Tuesday, showcasing early the party’s military veterans — including the newest members who fought in Iraq. Party leaders expressed confidence that “a strong majority of the House” would vote for the resolution, in the words of Brendan Daly, spokesman for Speaker Nancy Pelosi.