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House GOP to Offer Vote on Iraq Pullout

Times Staff Writer

Ratcheting up the debate in Congress over the Iraq war, House Republicans will offer for a vote today a resolution declaring that setting an “artificial timetable” for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq would be “inconsistent with achieving victory.”

The resolution also expresses the commitment of the House to “achieving victory in Iraq” and praises Iraqis for participating in parliamentary elections Thursday, calling the vote “a crucial victory for the Iraqi people and Iraq’s new democracy.”

The resolution marks the second time in as many months that GOP leaders, facing eroding public support and growing Democratic criticism of the continuing instability in Iraq, have sought to strike back at critics of the war.

Last month, Republican leaders set off a furor in the House by bringing to the floor a resolution aimed at forcing critics to go on record on whether they supported the immediate pullout of U.S. troops. The measure was overwhelmingly defeated.

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The measures have come as the debate in Congress over the war has intensified, partly in response to last month’s call by Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.), a longtime defense hawk and a former Marine, for the United States to start pulling troops out of Iraq, and as President Bush has received low marks in public opinion polls for his handling of Iraq.

The new resolution says that the “continued presence of United States Armed Forces in Iraq will be required only until Iraqi forces can stand up so our forces can stand down, and no longer than is required for that purpose,” and that “setting an artificial timetable for the withdrawal of United States Armed Forces from Iraq, or immediately terminating their deployment in Iraq and redeploying them elsewhere in the region, is fundamentally inconsistent with achieving victory.”

Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Burbank) said the section of the resolution dealing with how soon troops should be withdrawn “would seem to be deliberately written to maximize divisions within the Congress” at a time when Democrats and Republicans should be looking to find common ground on how to proceed on the war.

“What’s the purpose of this kind of division?” he asked. “It doesn’t help the war effort.”

Schiff, who was among a group of Democrats invited to meet with President Bush at the White House this week to discuss the war, recalled last month’s bitter debate on the House floor, saying, “The last thing we need to do is go through another divisive exercise on the House floor over Iraq.”

But Ron Bonjean, a spokesman for House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), said, “It’s important to show bipartisan support for our troops working for victory in Iraq as well, and we hope to see that with a strong vote.”

John J. Pitney Jr., a professor of government at Claremont McKenna College, said that “after being on the defensive for so long, [Republicans] think the time is right to resume the offensive. Iraq just had a successful election. President Bush has spelled out Iraq policy in greater detail. The Democrats have not found a common message....

“Republicans don’t exactly have the wind at their backs,” he added, “but they’ll gladly take advantage of the faintest of breezes.”

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