"He didn’t react well," Reyes said of Rumsfeld. "He reacted by saying that’s why he didn’t want any Congressional delegations going into Iraq. He said [the troops] didn’t need the distractions of Members of Congress."
Reyes, who said he visited Bosnia five times after the war there ended, argued that security simply wasn’t reason enough to bar lawmakers from Iraq. "I think it’s just Rumsfeld trying to control access to an area," he said.
Rogers agreed that some Pentagon officials were clearly less than pleased about having to deal with lawmakers during their trip.
"I think they would love it if they could just be left alone, but that’s how trouble starts," the Michigan Member said. "I take my constitutional oversight responsibilities seriously. We’re not there as tourists."
Like Rogers, many lawmakers who were supportive of the war effort are now itching to see the situation on the ground so they can assess what kind of support Congress should provide in the future.
Rep. John McHugh (R-N.Y.), chairman of the Armed Services subcommittee on total force, said that while he sympathized with the difficulty of providing security, he was eager to go to Iraq as soon as possible.
"The fact that I haven’t been able to go is personally frustrating," he said.
Several House Republicans said that frustration on the Hill has reached the point where some Members are considering following the example set by Rep. Christopher Shays
(R-Conn.), who went to Iraq in April without Pentagon approval.
Sources said Congressional anger over the issue emerged Thursday during a meeting between lawmakers and Paul Bremer, the new civilian administrator of Iraq. The complaints have also reached Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.).
"The Speaker has been very supportive of Members getting [into Iraq] and doing the necessary oversight, and he will continue to work to encourage the Department of Defense to make sure that Members have proper access," said Hastert spokesman John Feehery.
To many lawmakers, the policy on Iraq trips is symptomatic of a larger issue — what they see as Rumsfeld’s general disregard for Congress.
"This is just Rumsfeld poking Congress one more time," said a Republican lawmaker who frequently deals with the Pentagon.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.