Rep. Bob Traxler (D-Mich.) is a genial, hail-fellow-well-met congressman who describes himself as a "regular order" guy -- a team player and master of the art of legislative compromise necessary for a chairman of a House Appropriations subcommittee.

But there is one matter on which Traxler is not a team player now. At a meeting of the House Appropriations Committee Tuesday he announced to the surprise of many colleagues that he was "unalterably opposed" to sending U.S. troops to the Persian Gulf.

As far as Traxler and other Democrats are able to determine, he is alone among the 433 sitting members of the House to declare flatly and publicly that he is against Operation Desert Shield.

He is developing "an isolationist mindset," he admits. "I do not believe in what we are doing. I don't see it in the national interest and I'm compelled to raise my hand and say I dissent. . . . We need to come home. We have serious economic problems that deserve our full attention and resources."

It is unclear how representative Traxler's views are. The full House has yet to take up any measure that would require a stand on the gulf action. The House Foreign Affairs Committee is scheduled today to vote on a joint resolution that supports the actions of President Bush. Managers of the bill have drafted it to garner maximum support on the floor.

Also today, the House may take up a $1.9 billion special appropriation to cover the unanticipated costs of Desert Shield in August and September.

Traxler, who heads the Appropriations panel that allocates funds for veterans, space, housing and the environment, said he probably will oppose a joint resolution but wants to read it before making a final decision.

He said he will vote for the $1.9 billion because he does not want to jeopardize lives of Americans who have been sent to the gulf region, but he said they should be brought home right away.

Another member of the Appropriations Committee, Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), said she has not decided whether to support the president's policy.

"I had friends who were killed in Vietnam," Kaptur said. "I promised myself I would never be a party to back-door decisions {about war and peace}. I kept thinking back to the Gulf of Tonkin resolution. . . . I'm surprised that one can go for two months without Congress being involved in a voting sense."

Traxler's stand against the deployment received a fairly good response in his 8th District, an "American cross section" of rural voters in Michigan's "thumb," suburbanites and blue-collar auto workers around Saginaw and Bay City.

The same day Traxler's views were reported in the Saginaw News, the paper asked readers to call in their reactions. The next day, Sept. 10, it reported that 63 percent of 472 respondents backed Traxler's stand. "The public is asking us to be forthright, and I take that literally," Traxler said. "I want to be honest with myself. There's no reason for us to be in the sands of Arabia except oil. There's no threat to the homeland. We could develop an energy policy that would free us from foreign oil. We chose not to do that."

Traxler said the shortages of funds for the hundreds of vital government programs overseen by his subcommittee played a big role in his opposing the operation. "I want us energy independent and the troops home to build this country for the economic warfare of the next century," he said.

His mail has been running about 60 to 40 in favor, with only two letters accusing him of being a "traitor," he said. Traxler, who is running against Tuscola County insurance agent James White in a bid for a ninth full term, remains comfortably ahead in the polls, according to the congressman's office.