Dems Seek to Limit U.S. Iraq Involvement

The Associated Press
Saturday, February 10, 2007; 10:17 PM

WASHINGTON -- Even before they cast symbolic votes against the Iraq war, newly empowered congressional Democrats are clamoring for a chance to limit and eventually end U.S. involvement in a conflict that has killed more than 3,000 troops.

"Will I vote for a nonbinding resolution? Yes, but it's insufficient," says first-term Rep. Joe Sestak of Pennsylvania, author of one of more than a dozen competing proposals that would impose a deadline for the withdrawal of U.S. troops.

"I think eventually without a question that we will have the House move to that position," the former three-star admiral added. "The country is already there."

Sestak spoke in an interview just off the House floor, which will serve as a nationally televised stage this week for a marathon debate over Bush's war policy.

A vote is expected by week's end on a nonbinding measure that expresses disapproval of the president's recent decision to dispatch an additional 21,500 military personnel to Iraq. The measure also affirms support for the troops.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and the Democratic leadership have firmed up support for the measure by repeatedly promising it will be followed by binding legislation. "Our goal is to end the war," one Democrat quoted Pelosi as saying at a recent private caucus.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada has pursued the same course, hoping to enlist a bipartisan majority behind a measure that expresses disagreement with Bush's plans. Republicans have so far blocked consideration of the resolution.

Two Democrats have said they will oppose the resolution as too weak, even as a first step. But Reid's office has enlisted the backing of the anti-war organization for the strategy and defections have been few.

At the same time, pressure has been building.

War critics have told Reid they want to use anti-terrorism legislation that is expected on the Senate floor in March as a way of forcing votes on proposals to end the war.

In the House, the leadership is planning to turn Bush's request for additional military money into a mid-March debate over the war.

Rep. John Murtha, who heads a subcommittee with jurisdiction over defense spending, told reporters he hopes to add a provision to the bill that would forbid the Pentagon from sending additional troops "unless they have adequate training and unless they have adequate equipment."

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