Emotional Debate Ends With Unity

Times Staff Writer

After debating more than two hours on various resolutions regarding the war in Iraq, the California Assembly voted 74 to 0 Tuesday night for one that supports the U.S. troops but doesn’t mention support for the attack itself.

The surprising display of unity came after a rancorous exchange over four resolutions and multiple amendments. Republicans sought language that indicated support for the troops and President Bush as commander in chief, while many Democrats resisted any endorsement of the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

The 80-member house, with 32 Republicans and 48 Democrats, came to agreement after Assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg (D-Los Angeles) offered to insert the words “support for our troops” into a sentence in the resolution in which the Assembly “proclaims its fervent hope that hostilities in Iraq end as soon as possible, and that America’s servicemen and servicewomen return home quickly, safely and uninjured.”

Republicans, who had chided Democrats for not explicitly stating support for troops in the original resolution, pointed to the amendment as a victory.


But Goldberg said she offered the change after hearing heartfelt testimony from Assemblyman John Dutra (D-Fremont).

“If it’s only a matter of saying the words, why not say the words,” said Goldberg, who, like other Democrats, insisted that the original resolution offered plenty of support.

The resolution by Assemblyman Fabian Nunez (D-Los Angeles) was adopted by voice vote after 74 members agreed to sign on as coauthors. Three members were absent and three Republicans -- John Benoit of Palm Desert, Doug LaMalfa of Richvale and Jay LaSuer of La Mesa -- refused to sign on as coauthors.

Assemblywoman Sarah Reyes (D-Fresno) told colleagues they were wasting their time and should be working on the state’s budget gap, estimated at as much as $35 billion.

“Today I’m embarrassed to be a member of the Assembly,” she said.

But Assemblywoman Rebecca Cohn (D-Saratoga) said she found the exchange a heartening example of democracy.

“We get to have these conversations,” she said, “and many other people in the world do not.”