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House Hears Members' Views on Iraq Resolution

The House of Representatives begins debate on a Democratic resolution objecting to President Bush's proposed troop buildup in Iraq. Many Republicans are unhappy that they aren't being permitted to offer amendments, but a considerable number in the party still plan to vote in favor of the resolution.

"The American people have lost faith in President Bush's course of action in Iraq, and they're demanding a new direction," Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in opening the session.

The debate is expected to go until midnight every day this week, with a final vote on Friday.

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With each member apportioned five minutes to speak, the debate has been strikingly different from the usual business of the House of Representatives. Members spoke on the floor in a tone both flat-calm and serious.

Speaker Pelosi spoke of the violence in Iraq getting worse month by month. The result of what Pelosi called the Bush administration's mistakes, she said, is hardening sectarian tension in Iraq, ethnic cleansing in Baghdad, and waves of refugees burdening neighboring countries.

The resolution under debate will not change that — it is nonbinding. But Pelosi made it clear that the sparse two sentences in the resolution — supporting the troops and disapproving of the surge strategy — is only the first of Congress' actions.

But the House debate is also going well beyond the political light of the resolution. Members of Congress of both parties who have been deeply involved in every step of the war, including through classified briefings and countless hearings, described how complex and messy the situation has become.

Their real differences lie in the question Washington has been grappling with for several years now: Is Iraq a front in the war against terrorism, or is it not? Duncan Hunter (R-CA), the ranking member of the Armed Services Committee, said that it is — and that the resolution will not help.

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"I think it's going to be received by friend and foe alike as the first sound of retreat in the world battle against extremists and terrorist," Hunter said.

There is little question of the outcome. Democrats seem united in favor of the resolution. Some two dozen Republicans are also expected to vote for it. But whatever the numbers show on Friday, it is certain that the debate will continue.

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