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Iraq Transition

Veterans front and center during Iraq debate

Story Highlights

• Debate begins on House resolution disapproving of plan to increase troops
Pelosi: "Bush's escalation proposal will not make America safer"
GOP leader: Measure is "the first step toward abandoning Iraq"
• Majority Leader Reid says Senate will debate House resolution
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- House Democrats put their military veterans front and center Tuesday, beginning three days of debate on a resolution against increasing U.S. forces in Iraq.

"Walking in my own combat boots, I saw firsthand this administration's failed policy in Iraq," said Rep. Patrick Murphy, a Pennsylvania Democrat elected last fall who served as an Army captain in Iraq.

Leaders of the Democratic-controlled House support the nonbinding, two-sentence resolution which says "Congress disapproves" of Bush's decision to send more than 20,000 additional troops to quell worsening sectarian and insurgent attacks. (Watch Pelosi on how 100 words will change cause change of direction Video)

Although Republicans are split on the measure, opponents warn it would send the wrong signal to terrorists and to Americans already fighting in Iraq. Democrats said the resolution reflects the will of Americans regarding an increasingly unpopular war.

"Friday's vote will signal whether the House has heard the American people: No more blank checks for President Bush on Iraq," said Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California. (Watch how citizens and presidential candidates stand Video)

"President Bush's escalation proposal will not make America safer, will not make our military stronger and will not make the region more stable and it will not have my support."

The nonbinding House resolution, which is expected to come to a vote Friday, begins with the statement, "Congress and the American people will continue to support and protect the members of the United States Armed Forces who are serving, or who have served, bravely and honorably in Iraq."

It goes on to say that "Congress disapproves of the decision of President George W. Bush, announced on January 10, 2007, to deploy more than 20,000 additional United States combat troops to Iraq." (Read the text of the resolution -- PDF)

Democrats portrayed their opposition to the president's buildup as being in the best interest of the troops.

"The administration has yet to learn you cannot unscramble an omelet -- instead trying to add to the mix another 20,000 men and women who deserve better than that," said House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Lantos, D-California.

GOP: Resolution step toward 'abandoning' Iraq

House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, cast the resolution in historical terms, calling for a "commitment to victory" similar to President Lincoln's during the Civil War.

"This nonbinding resolution is the first step toward abandoning Iraq by cutting off funding for our troops that are in harm's way," said Boehner. "And we know what al Qaeda thinks when America retreats from the battlefield. They think that we can't stomach a fight." (Watch how GOP opponents are planning to fight the resolution Video)

Boehner challenged Democratic leaders to permit a vote on a Republican alternative that would preclude lawmakers from trying to stop the deployment by cutting off funding.

And Rep. Duncan Hunter, the ranking member on the House Armed Services Committee added, "it's going to be received by friend and foe alike as the first sound of retreat in the world battle against extremists and terrorists."

Minority Whip Roy Blunt, R-Missouri, argued that Congress should not venture into areas that are the domain of the commander-in-chief.

"It is hard to imagine a group less capable of making tactical decisions about specific troop deployments than 535 members of Congress." Blunt said.

Senate to take up House language

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, said Tuesday he would "start today" to bring up the House resolution in the Senate, adding that he hoped to conclude work on it after the coming recess.

Last week, the Senate deadlocked over a resolution that also expressed opposition to the president's plan to send more troops to Iraq. (Watch how the Senate is deadlocked over a resolution opposing the buildup Video)

"It's a good resolution," Reid said of the House measure. "We will bring that to the Senate. I support what the House is doing, I like the way they're doing it."

"We support the troops, we oppose the surge," he said. "It's perfect."

On Monday, seven Republican senators who oppose Bush's plan tried and failed to attach language from an anti-increase resolution to a massive spending bill in order to get around a procedural dispute that has held up consideration of the resolution itself.

Reid refused to clear away several parliamentary hurdles preventing the senators from inserting the language because of concerns that addressing that issue might delay the bill, said Jim Manley, a Reid aide.

The spending bill has to be approved by Thursday to avoid a government shutdown, which the majority Democrats are hoping to avoid on their watch.

CNN's Ted Barrett and Andrea Koppel contributed to this report.

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Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Pennsylvania, is one of the "fighting Democrats" the House leadership is putting forward.

HOUSE RESOLUTION

(1) Congress and the American people will continue to support and protect the members of the United States Armed Forces who are serving or who have served bravely and honorably in Iraq; and

(2) Congress disapproves of the decision of President George W. Bush announced on January 10, 2007, to deploy more than 20,000 additional United States combat troops to Iraq.

QUICK VOTE

Should the House pass a resolution opposing President Bush's plan to send 21,500 additional combat troops to Iraq?
or View Results

SPECIAL REPORT

• Interactive: Who's who in Iraq
• Interactive: Sectarian divide
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