House Rejects Timetable for Iraq Pullout

The Associated Press
Friday, June 16, 2006; 2:57 PM

WASHINGTON -- The House on Friday rejected a timetable for pulling U.S. forces out of Iraq after a ferociously partisan debate, forcing lawmakers in both parties to go on record on a major issue in re-election campaigns nationwide.

A day after the Senate took the same position against troop withdrawal, the GOP-led House voted 256-153 to approve a nonbinding resolution that says an "arbitrary date for the withdrawal or redeployment" of American forces is not in the national interest.

"Achieving victory is our only option," declared House Majority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, casting Democrats as defeatists who want to retreat in the face of terrorist threats. "We must not shy away."

"'Stay the course' is not a strategy, it's a slogan," answered House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi as she called for a new direction in a war she labeled "a grotesque mistake."

"It's time to face the facts," Pelosi said.

Angling for political advantage, House Republicans engineered the debate and vote, four and one-half months before midterm elections that will decide who runs Congress _ and as polls show voters favoring Democrats to replace Republicans as the controlling party.

Those same polls show the public increasingly frustrated with the war as the death toll and price tag continue to rise. Voters could hold it against incumbent candidates, regardless of political party, come November.

Republicans across Capitol Hill are sensitive to those political realities.

GOP leaders in both the House and Senate sought to put lawmakers of both parties, and particularly Democrats, on record on the conflict, and looked to draw attention to deep Democratic divisions on the war.

Senate Republicans succeeded in doing that Thursday. In a maneuver Democrats assailed as a political stunt, GOP leaders brought up legislation calling for withdrawing combat troops by year's end and quickly dismissed it on a 93-6 vote. Six Democrats were in the minority.

It was the House Republicans' turn a day later.

They scheduled a vote on their symbolic resolution that also praises U.S. troops and labels the Iraq war part of the larger global fight against terrorism.

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