BIPARTISAN MAJORITY IN U.S. HOUSE VOTES AGAINST THE PRESIDENT'S PLAN TO ESCALATE THE WAR IN IRAQ

To:  Reporters, Editors, Editorial Writers, and Producers
From: Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, Majority Whip James Clyburn, and Democratic Caucus Chair Rahm Emanuel
Re: Passage of Resolution Disapproving of the President's Plan to Send More Than 21,000 Additional Troops to Iraq
Date:  02/16/2007

"I think that the framers of the Constitution would be astonished that a president would proceed to increase U.S. involvement in a foreign war over the expressed objection of both houses of Congress."
Walter E. Dellinger III, Duke University constitutional scholar and former Assistant U.S. Attorney General, in the Washington Post today

 Today, the U.S. House of Representatives took a vital first step in affecting the Bush Administration's failing Iraq policy and forging a new direction in our war effort there.  By a vote of 246 to 182, the House passed a bipartisan Resolution (H.Con.Res.63 ) that expresses Members' unwavering support for our servicemen and women in harm's way, and disapproves of the President's plan to escalate America's involvement in this war by deploying an additional 21,500 combat troops to Iraq.  17 Republican Members joined 229 Democrats in voting for this straight-forward Resolution.

On Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced that the Senate will hold a rare Saturday vote to proceed on debate on an identical Resolution, after Republican procedural maneuvers prevented debate in that body last week.

The New 110th Congress Is Fulfilling Its Constitutional Responsibilities

Last November, the American people voted for change - including a new direction in the war in Iraq, which will enter its fifth year next month.  In supporting this Resolution today, the House not only demonstrated that it heard the voters' message but also that it has the collective will to send one of its own: No more blank checks for President Bush on Iraq.

The new Democratic majorities in the 110th Congress will not be a rubber stamp for the Administration's policies - particularly policies that are failing, not succeeding.  The American people expect and deserve no less than a fully engaged Congress.

House Democrats are determined to conduct real, meaningful oversight.  In addition to passing this Resolution - after four full days of debate in which every Member who wanted to speak was given time to express his or her views - the House has other opportunities to affect Iraq policy in the days and weeks ahead, including on the war supplemental appropriations bill, the Defense Department authorization bill, and the Defense Department appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2008.

Furthermore, in the first six weeks of this new Congress, the Democratic majorities have served notice that they will not be bystanders on the most important national security issue of the day, conducting nearly 60 hearings on Iraq.  To date, Congress has investigated pre-war intelligence gathering; waste, fraud and abuse in Iraq; and combat readiness issues.  In addition, Rep. Tom Lantos (CA), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, has announced that he will hold a full hearing in March on all resolutions related to Iraq.

Why a Bipartisan House Majority Opposes the President's Plan to Escalate

"Whatever you voted for, you did not vote for failure."
   President Bush, in his State of the Union Address, 1/23/07

After nearly four years at war, after more than 3,100 of our finest sons and daughters have given the ultimate measure of sacrifice, after more than 25,000 American troops have been wounded, after more than $400 billion has been spent on this war effort by the American taxpayer, the recent National Intelligence Estimate confirmed that the security situation in Iraq is grave and likely to deteriorate over the next 12 to 18 months.

Bipartisan Congressional opposition to the President's escalation plan is based on several factors.  First, the Administration has little credibility in its claim that this strategy will work.  It has been wrong so many times before - from sending too few troops at the outset, to grossly underestimating the costs, to failing to properly plan for the post-war period.  We believe the President, in proposing this escalation, is wrong again.

Second, this troop escalation does not represent a new strategy.  We have tried at least four escalations in the past, none of which succeeded in quelling violence in the long-term.  The time to send more troops was four years ago, at the outset of this war.  But we never sent a force commensurate with the risk we faced, as stated by the President.  Now, unfortunately, what the Administration proposes is too little, too late.

Third, we cannot disregard the profound skepticism and warnings of our current and former military leaders.

"I do not believe that more American troops right now is the solution to the problem.  I believe that the troop levels need to stay where they are."
Gen. John P. Abizaid, Commander of the United States Central Command

"I am not persuaded that another surge of troops in Baghdad for the purposes of suppressing this communitarian violence, this civil war, will work."
Former Secretary of State and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell

"We need to get out of thinking this is solely a military conflict where we must simply apply more U.S. or coalition and Iraqi forces against an enemy that we can destroy.  All our nation's strengths - diplomatic, economic, political - must be leveraged to help the Iraqis find their way through this process."
Lt. Gen. Peter Chiarelli, former Commander of Multinational Corps Iraq

Democrats Support a Diplomatic Surge

It is obvious that there is not a military solution to the violence in Iraq.  We need a diplomatic surge, and a surge of Iraqi responsibility.  Democrats believe that we must implement an aggressive diplomatic strategy, both within the region and beyond.  The Iraqis must take the lead on security, and the mission of American forces must shift from combat to counter-terrorism, training and logistics.  We must begin the responsible redeployment of our forces in the next four to six months.

Too Many Republicans Embrace Red Herrings Rather than Real Debate

"This debate should not even be about the Iraq war to date, mistakes that have been, 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."
Republican Reps. Peter Hoekstra (MI) and John Shadegg (AZ), in a Dear Colleague letter to fellow Republican House Members

Many House Republicans simply refused to debate the one substantive question posed by this Resolution: Do you support the President's escalation plan or not?  Instead, they tried to muddy the waters with false and conflicting arguments.

They claimed that this Resolution was merely symbolic - disregarding the fact that the bipartisan expression of the House, when it mirrors the views of the vast majority of Americans, cannot be casually ignored.  They claimed the Resolution signaled retreat in the war on terror - ignoring the fact that continuing to support failed strategies in Iraq weakens our efforts in the war on terror.  Furthermore, our failure to implement an effective strategy in Iraq has clearly resulted in encouraging and enhancing the ability of terrorists to recruit and to spread their twisted ideology.

They claimed the Resolution would demoralize our troops - even though the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Peter Pace, said otherwise.  And, they claimed that the Resolution was a first step to "de-funding" our troops in the field.  This Republican assertion is categorically false.

While the new Democratic Majority will explore every option, including placing conditions on the funding provided in the upcoming war supplemental, to affect Iraq policy, our commitment to our men and women in harm's way is unwavering.  There is not a Member of the House who does not pray for our nation's success in Iraq.  Our brave servicemen and women have done everything that a grateful nation has asked of them since the beginning of this war.  We will not abandon them.

Democrats Urge the President to Heed the Message of a Bipartisan Majority of the House

In the days ahead, as our nation continues to debate our Iraq policy, Democrats will urge the President to listen to the majority of Members in the House who voted for this Resolution and the overwhelmingly majority of Americans who oppose the plan to escalate this war.  The President's Iraq policy is failing.  We must forge a new direction in Iraq.

"Let's work with the President to find an end point to the strategy, and let's not put our men and women in the middle of a civil war to make them referees."
Republican Rep. Walter Jones (NC), co-sponsor of the bipartisan Resolution considered in the House this week

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