House Rejects Troop Surge in Iraq

ByABC News
February 16, 2007, 3:45 PM

Feb. 16, 2007 — -- With the House voting 246-182 for a nonbinding resolution on Iraq Friday afternoon, attention swiftly turned to the Senate. Majority Leader Harry Reid has scheduled a Saturday vote. But it will not end debate there. In fact, it is only a procedural vote to decide whether to start debate that was blocked by bitter partisan differences. The outcome is uncertain.

That uncertainty prompted Pennsylvania Republican Arlen Spector to tell his colleagues that the Senate is "in real danger of becoming irrelevant." Spector said ruefully, "I think we ought to be at least equal. What we have here is close to anarchy. We've been debating the debate all week."

While Spector and some others in both parties have warned that the upper House (the Senate) looks weak compared with the lower House, the present standoff is hardly new. The Senate simply has different rules than the House, and those rules give senators in the minority vastly more power to create deadlock.

Democrats did it when the GOP was in control. Now Republican leader Mitch McConnell is using those rules, trying to get what he calls a fair break, a chance to vote on Iraq measures acceptable to his side.

Reid hopes that by calling senators back to a Saturday session, which means drawing presidential candidates in both parties away from weekend campaigning, he can somehow reach consensus. To do that, he needs not just a simple majority, but 60 votes. That would probably require 10 Republicans to line up with Democrats. GOP leaders say Reid will fail to win that much support from their side.

Democrats in both the House and Senate argued that they are not cutting off support for U.S. forces. Instead, they say they are trying to influence President Bush by showing opposition to his "surge" in Iraq, a decision to send 21,500 more troops there.

Shortly before the House vote, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the resolution "may be nonbinding, but it will send a strong message to the president [that] we here in Congress are committed to protecting and supporting our troops. The passage of this legislation will signal a change in direction that will end the fighting and bring our troops home safely and soon."