US House GOP seeks quick veto of Iraq pullout
Updated: 2005-11-19 09:22
US House Republicans maneuvered for swift rejection Friday of any notion of immediately pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq, sparking a nasty, sometimes personal debate over the war following a Democratic lawmaker's own call for withdrawal.
Just a day after Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., stoked the surging political firestorm over President Bush's Iraq policies by calling for a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, Republicans brought a measure to the House floor urging that the pullout begin immediately.
House Speaker Dennis Hastert holds a press conference with other House GOP members to summarize GOP efforts before Thanksgiving recess on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, Nov. 18, 2005. [AP]
With the symbolic vote, Republicans were hoping to place Democrats in an unappealing position — either supporting a withdrawal that critics said would be precipitous or opposing it and angering voters who want an end to the conflict. They were also hoping the vote could restore GOP momentum on an issue — the war — that has seen plummeting public support in recent weeks.
"We want to make sure that we support our troops that are fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. We will not retreat," Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., said of the nonbinding resolution.
Furious Democrats accused the GOP of orchestrating a political stunt and changing the meaning of the proposal by Murtha, who has said a smooth withdrawal would take six months. Democrats said they planned to counter by voting against the GOP provision en masse.
At one point in the emotional debate, Rep. Jean Schmidt, R-Ohio, told of a phone call she received from a Marine colonel.
"He asked me to send Congress a message — stay the course. He also asked me to send Congressman Murtha a message — that cowards cut and run, Marines never do," Schmidt said. Murtha is a 37-year Marine veteran.
Democrats booed and shouted her down — causing the House to come to a standstill.
Rep. Harold Ford, D-Tenn., charged across the chamber's center aisle screaming that Republicans were making an uncalled-for personal attack. "You guys are pathetic. Pathetic," yelled Rep. Marty Meehan, D-Mass.
Democrats gave Murtha, a decorated Vietnam War veteran with close ties to the military, a standing ovation as he entered the chamber and took his customary corner seat.
The fireworks, as lawmakers rushed toward a two-week Thanksgiving break, came just days after the GOP-controlled Senate defeated a Democratic push for Bush to lay out a timetable for withdrawal. Spotlighting questions from both parties about the war, senators approved a statement that 2006 should be a significant year in which conditions are created for the phased withdrawal of U.S. forces.
Murtha has proposed his own resolution that would force the president to withdraw the nearly 160,000 troops in Iraq "at the earliest practicable date." It would establish a quick-reaction force and a nearby presence of Marines in the region. It also said the U.S. must pursue stability in Iraq through diplomacy.