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House on Deck in Iraq Debate

With their Senate counterparts unable to move a resolution through the chamber disapproving of President Bush’s Iraq War strategy, House Democrats will push ahead with a measure of their own next week designed to put Members on record before they return to their districts for the Presidents Day recess.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told reporters Tuesday that he expected up to three days of debate on the resolution, whose language is being crafted by House Foreign Affairs Chairman Tom Lantos (D-Calif.) and Armed Services Chairman Ike Skelton (D-Mo.).

The House Democratic Caucus also is scheduled to hold a closed-door meeting Thursday to build consensus for the resolution vote next week and to assuage some Members’ concerns that the resolution does not go far enough.

Hoyer said that resolution will express “disagreement” or “reservation” on Bush’s plan to escalate the U.S. military presence in Iraq by 21,500 troops, and House Democratic leadership aides said Tuesday that the chamber’s resolution is expected to largely mirror the language in the Senate resolution authored by Sen. John Warner (R-Va.).

Like Warner’s, the House resolution also will be nonbinding, and Hoyer said it will come to the floor under a closed rule to limit amendments, arguing that an open rule would prompt too many amendments and unnecessarily extend the debate.

It is unlikely the resolution will go through the regular committee process at Foreign Affairs or Armed Services. Hoyer said next week’s time-crunch could make Democratic leaders opt to bypass committee to get the resolution on the floor Tuesday; however, he noted that the president’s proposal has already been subject to “extensive” hearings.

“We believe it’s important for us to make our views known prior to leaving for the Presidents Day break,” Hoyer said.

While GOP leaders have already voiced objection to the process under which the resolution will come to the floor, a number of Republicans are expected to vote for the resolution. “I hope so and expect so,” Hoyer said Tuesday.

House Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Republican Conference Chairman Adam Putnam (Fla.) objected to Democrats’ decision to bring the resolution to the floor under a closed rule that forbids amendments.

“If you’re not going to really bring all of the ideas out there, the debate is only to score political points,” said Blunt.

Putnam went further, stating that when Republicans brought an Iraq War resolution to the House floor in November 2005 regarding troop withdrawal under a similarly restrictive rule, they were wrong and did so for political gain.

“You know what? [Democrats] were right,” Putnam said, “It was a game, and we got beat. I mean, did we learn anything from that? It was a resolution that didn’t go through committee and it should have, and it would have been a better resolution if it had.”

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