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House to Vote on Resolution to Withdraw U.S. Troops


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.


And I'm Robert Siegel.

The House of Representatives found itself in a partisan screaming match today. It all stemmed from remarks made yesterday by Pennsylvania Democrat John Murtha, who proposed a withdrawal of US forces from Iraq. Murtha is a decorated Vietnam veteran, and he's considered a hawk on military matters. His proposal, though, was met by a hail of Republican criticism. Tonight the House Republicans decided to put Democrats on the spot and offer an up-or-down resolution on whether to pull out of Iraq immediately. Democrats angrily said Republicans were deliberately misrepresenting the position taken by Murtha. NPR's David Welna joins us now to talk about what's been going on.

And, David, what is the Republican resolution that caused all this anger?

DAVID WELNA reporting:

Well, Robert, it is one sentence long, and it reads as such: `Resolved: that it is the sense of the House of Representatives that the deployment of United States forces in Iraq be terminated immediately.' And that is all there is to it.

SIEGEL: And is that what Congressman Murtha proposed?

WELNA: Not really. Congressman Murtha proposed that there be a withdrawal of US forces from Iraq as quickly as possible, but he did not suggest that they be withdrawn from the entire region, however, that they be pulled back to areas adjacent to Iraq, because he said that the presence of American troops in Iraq is only stirring up more trouble and making American troops targets of attacks. This is radically different from what Murtha proposed.

And in fact, it was drawn up by the Republican chairman of the Armed Services Committee, Duncan Hunter, who said that he did so because he did not want troops in Iraq to get the impression that Congress was losing its will to keep this war going, and we heard him on the floor say that.

Representative DUNCAN HUNTER (Republican, California; Chair, Armed Services Committee): Those 140,000 personnel presently stationed in Iraq are obviously getting an impression about the United States Congress and its position with respect to all of the publicity that's emanated not just from this body in statements that have gone out from this body, but also from the other body that happened just a couple of days ago, and the headline stories that emanated from that.

SIEGEL: That's Duncan Hunter, the Republican committee chair. It was obviously pretty heated there.

WELNA: It was quite heated. The Democrats said that troops in Iraq would be quite surprised to hear that Republicans were proposing an immediate pullout. And a Republican who was recently elected, Jean Schmidt from the southeastern part of Ohio, then got up and she read a letter from a soldier stationed in Iraq that caused a huge outcry on the floor. Let's listen to that.

Representative JEAN SCHMIDT (Republican, Ohio): He asked me to send Congress a message: Stay the course. He also asked me to send Congressman Murtha a message: that cowards cut and run; Marines never do. Danny and the rest of America and the world...

(Soundbite of mixed reactions; gavel)

Unidentified Man: Gentlemen...

Rep. SCHMIDT: ...want the assurance from this body...

Unidentified Man: ...the House will...

Rep. SCHMIDT: ...that we will see this through.

SIEGEL: That was extremely heated in that exchange...

WELNA: Yes, and it...

SIEGEL: ...that involved Congresswoman Schmidt.

WELNA: In fact, Democrats demanded that her words be taken down and, in fact, they were; they were stricken from the record.

SIEGEL: Well, what's going to happen with this resolution, and what's really going on here, David?

WELNA: Well, I think Republicans are trying to hold Democrats' feet to the fire. They realize that Democrats are having a hard time finding a common position on Iraq. Many of them did vote for the resolution that authorized use of force against Iraq. They aren't of one mind about this. And I think Republicans saw this as a chance to show that those division exist. But Democrats are coming back and saying because they proposed such an absurd resolution, in their words, they all plan to vote against it. And in the preliminary voting so far, that's exactly what they've done.

SIEGEL: Thank you, David.

WELNA: You're welcome, Robert.

SIEGEL: That's NPR's David Welna, speaking to us from Capitol Hill. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

David Welna is NPR's national security correspondent.
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