By PATRICIA M.MURRET, Capital News Service
WASHINGTON - The U.S. House of Representatives will vote next week on President Bush's plan to increase troop numbers in Iraq, and every member will have a chance to voice an opinion on the plan, Democrats announced Thursday.
The non-binding resolution will contain two elements: a pledge of continued support for all American troops, and disapproval of the president's intentions to increase troops in Iraq by 21,500 soldiers.
The resolution will be "simple and straightforward," House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Mechanicsville, and House Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emmanuel, D-Ill., said in a news conference following a House Democratic caucus meeting.
"(The troop escalation) has been tried three separate times before," Emmanuel said. "We are now three-and-a-half years, getting close to over 3,100 American lives, over 20,000 wounded and the president is asking for a greater commitment of prestige, dollars and troops."
Democrats originally planned to introduce a joint House-Senate resolution opposing Bush's proposal, but House Democrats broke from that plan earlier this week. After seeing senators become deadlocked over details in several similar proposals, they decided to simplify.
"We're going to have a George Bush policy vote," Emmanuel said. "This is a case where, as the famous saying goes, where less is more."
Procedures for a three-day open debate on the resolution, scheduled to begin Tuesday, will be based on a process used to debate the Gulf War in 1991. All House members will have five minutes each to air their views.
"Every member will be given the opportunity to speak that wants to speak," Hoyer said, noting that Americans voiced their own views in November elections.
"The debate will go forward, and the American people will have their representatives for three days to articulate their view on how they want to proceed," Hoyer said. "That is important for the president to hear. It's important for the country to hear."
Republicans will likely offer an alternative resolution, and lawmakers will have an opportunity to vote on that too, Democrats said.
Troop funding will be discussed in other, appropriate forums, Emmanuel said.
Earlier this week, Hoyer told a roomful of reporters that he hoped that support of the resolution would be bipartisan.
One of Maryland's two Republicans agreed with the idea of a resolution.
Rep. Wayne Gilchrest, R-Kennedysville, said that he had spoken with Hoyer and agreed with the debate.
"I think it is timely and appropriate for the House to debate the president's policy requiring a surge of troops," Gilchrest said. "I think it's very appropriate."
Gilchrest said he would like to see a resolution expressing disapproval of the president's call for more troops. He also would like a House resolution putting Congress on record as asking the president to implement the Iraq Study Group's recommendations for dialogue with Iraq's neighbors, including Iran and Syria.
Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Frederick, and a number of other House Republicans have gone on record saying that they oppose the president's proposal to increase troops.