Pelosi: Iraq resolution is just the beginning

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told her colleagues and the country yesterday that the non-binding resolution disapproving of President Bush’s troop surge is only the first step in congressional action on Iraq, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he is taking steps to bring the same measure to a vote in the upper chamber.

“In a few days and in fewer than 100 words, we will take our country in a new direction on Iraq,” Pelosi said in her floor speech on the measure. “A vote of disapproval will set the stage for additional Iraq legislation which will be coming to the House floor.”

Meantime, Reid said he prefers the House resolution to a bipartisan compromise that had been crafted in his own chamber.

“I think it’s so much more direct: We support the troops; we’re opposed to the surge. Perfect,” Reid told reporters, adding, “I support what the House does. I’m very happy with what they’re doing, and I like the way they’re doing it.”

While Democrats want to portray the debate as a referendum on the president and his Iraq strategy, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said the resolution is “criticizing the latest efforts by American forces to win in Iraq.”

His remarks follow a “Dear Colleague” letter that Reps. John Shadegg (R-Ariz.) and Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.) sent to Republicans yesterday, asking them not to debate the resolution on the Democrats’ terms.

“The debate should not be on the surge or its details,” the lawmakers said. “This debate should not even be about the war to date, mistakes that have been made, or whether we can, or cannot, win militarily. If we let Democrats force us into a debate on the surge or the current situation in Iraq, we lose.”

Shadegg and Hoekstra attached to their letter a map showing where across the world terrorists had attacked since 2002, and they encouraged Republicans to ask the Democrats “the essential question: If we do not defeat radical Islam in Iraq, then where will we do so?”

Democrats, worried about being viewed as unpatriotic or disloyal to the troops, went out of their way to take any opportunity to praise the soldiers in Iraq. In addition, the Democratic lineup on the first of three days of debates on the resolution was laden with veterans of several wars.

Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.), a retired general, began the debate by saying he is “opposed to a troop surge that doubles down on a bad military bet that has been tried already.”

Iraq war veteran Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Pa.), who served in Iraq until the beginning of 2004, said he saw “firsthand this administration’s failed policy in Iraq,” adding that more troops were needed four years ago, not now.”

Republicans countered by saying passage of the resolution would hurt morale among U.S. forces while boosting it for the country’s enemies.

Boehner called the measure a “political charade,” adding that “non-binding means non-leadership. It’s not accountable. And I don’t think it’s the right message for our troops.”

House Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said the country should “see this move for what it really is: a political first step to cutting off funding for the dangerous mission our troops face.”

Rep. Sam Johnson (R-Texas) wanted the House to also vote on an amendment that would have put members on the record that they would not cut funding for combat troops. It was rejected during a Rules Committee hearing Monday night.

When Republicans spoke to reporters yesterday to express their disappointment with the closed rule, Boehner began to cry when Johnson described how he learned of a cut to Vietnam War funding after he had spent seven years as a prisoner of war.

The resolution voicing support for the troops and disapproval of the troop surge is expected to be passed Friday. A vast majority of Democrats is expected to support it, as are several Republicans.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) yesterday declined to predict how many GOP members would support the resolution.

“I don’t want to be an oracle in this case,” he said, adding that he expects Republicans to be subjected to White House arm-twisting.

Hoyer continued to defend the Democratic leadership’s decision to nix consideration of a competing Republican resolution. He admitted that “it sounds like we’re not doing what we said we were going to do” because Democrats had promised a more open process.

“This is the only way to make a very clear, unambiguous statement,” Hoyer said. “This is in response to a Republican president who’s made a proposal.”

Jackie Kucinich contributed to this report.