Monday, February 12, 2007

GOP Expects Defections as House Debates Iraq Resolution

Three days of intense debate over the Iraq war begins in the House today, with Democrats planning to propose a narrowly worded rebuke of President Bush's troop buildup and Republicans girding for broad defections on their side.

Both parties will jockey for prime time before the C-SPAN cameras, with leaders claiming the best time slots and rank-and-file members trying to make the most of the five minutes each will be allotted. If all 435 House members use their five minutes, debate will last 36 hours. It is likely to begin by late morning and run until midnight tomorrow, Wednesday and Thursday. A vote is expected Friday.

After watching their counterparts in the Senate stall and sputter last week, unable to agree on ground rules for a debate on Iraq, House leaders are forging ahead, determined to send a statement to the White House to condemn a troop buildup.

Democrats will file a nonbinding resolution against the Bush plan while Republicans will try to broaden the dispute and seed doubt in the Democratic approach. Although Senate Republicans were able to block debate on a resolution condemning Bush's war policies last week, it will be much easier for Democrats in the House to bring a measure to the floor.

The GOP, whose members have conceded they are likely to lose, is treating the debate like a mini-political campaign, deploying a rapid-response team to counter Democrats' statements, aggressively trying to get its leaders on television and radio, and creating a "resource center" off the House floor where members can fill their arms with maps, research material, videos or other visual aids to use during their floor time.

"We may lose the vote, but we'll win the debate," said Kevin Smith, a spokesman for House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio).

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