House Rebukes Bush on Iraq

By Jonathan Weisman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, February 17, 2007

Capping four days of passionate, often angry debate, the House yesterday delivered President Bush its first rebuke since the Iraq war was launched nearly four years ago, voting 246 to 182 to oppose the administration's planned deployment of 21,500 additional combat troops to Iraq.

Seventeen Republicans voted with all but two Democrats to approve a resolution that expresses support for U.S. combat forces but opposes the additional deployments. Democrats portrayed the vote as a bipartisan slap at the White House, but Republican leaders kept GOP defections below even their most optimistic estimates, as the debate crescendoed to a dramatic close yesterday.

Although the measure is nonbinding, proponents and opponents delivered outsized predictions of the vote's consequences. Democrats asserted that it will begin to turn the political tide so decisively that the president will have no choice but to begin bringing U.S. forces home, while Republicans warned darkly that the House has emboldened murderous Islamic terrorists at the expense not only of American lives but also of America's way of life.

"Our enemies will be the only ones satisfied by this debate," warned Rep. Eric Cantor (Va.), the Republicans' chief deputy whip. "They will have received all the political rhetoric they require to convince their followers that complete victory is at hand."

But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said that the resolution's passage "will signal a change in direction in Iraq that will end the fighting and bring our troops home safely and soon."

The Senate plans to hold an unusual weekend session today to vote on whether to proceed with a debate on the House-passed resolution. Although the resolution is merely an expression of lawmakers' views, Pelosi and other House Democrats have vowed to impose conditions on their support for Bush's war-funding request. Those stipulations could curtail troop deployments and alter the course of U.S. involvement in Iraq.

Bush did not publicly comment on the House vote, but White House press secretary Tony Snow said in a statement: "The president believes that the Congress should provide the full funding and flexibility our Armed Forces need to succeed in their mission to protect our country."

Some liberals and conservatives dismissed the House resolution as merely a symbolic gesture and said that Democratic leaders should have resorted to binding legislation if they were serious about stopping the troop buildup. But House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) said that Bush would have vetoed such a bill, with no possibility of an override. The nonbinding resolution is not dependent on the president's signature.

"What the president cannot veto is the opinion of the Congress of the United States, the judgment of the Congress of the United States, the counsel of the Congress of the United States," Hoyer added, pounding on a lectern after the vote. "Let us hope that the commander in chief hears this counsel."

If anything, the Republicans were even more dramatic, as they concluded a debate that sent 393 of the House's 434 members -- 221 Democrats and 172 Republicans -- to the floor over a grueling 44 hours and 55 minutes.

House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) called the vote "the first step down a very treacherous path, a path that if followed will endanger Americans for decades to come."

As Pelosi delivered her closing remarks in the House chamber, Republican leaders abandoned the floor and crossed the Capitol to appear with their Senate counterparts and denounce what they called the Democrats' "slow-bleed strategy" for the war.

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