By a vote of 256 to153, the U.S. House of Representatives has approved a resolution declaring that the United States will prevail in Iraq and the global war on terrorism. Approval of the measure, which also praises U.S. troops and rejects any premature timetable for their withdrawal, came after nearly 14 hours of debate.
Majority Republicans described the debate as a vital expression of congressional support for U.S. troops, and a message to terrorists from the American people.
Democrats derided it as a political charade, aimed at diverting attention from Bush administration mis-steps in Iraq, and continuing violence there.
Wherever lawmakers stood, the debate occurred against the background of news that the U.S. death toll in Iraq has surpassed the 25,00 mark.
Republican House Speaker Dennis Hastert accused Democrats of, in his words, supporting the troops but not the mission:
"The clarity with which our men and women in uniform understand the reason they are in Iraq is a stark contrast to some here at home, who talk about this war as a war of choice."
Democrats used floor speeches to renew long-standing allegations about what they call Bush administration incompetence, accusing Republicans of staging the debate for political purposes.
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi accuses the Bush administration and Republicans of mis-leading Americans at various stages, and asserts Democrats are united on Iraq:
"The reason for going in, the reception we would receive, or the rapidity with which the Iraqis would be able to fund their own operation -- everything they have said has been wrong. Democrats are united in saying, 'we need a new direction in Iraq.'"
Throughout, Pennsylvania Congressman John Murtha, who called last year for U.S. forces to begin pulling out of Iraq, led the Democrats in opposition:
"Rhetoric does not answer the problem. Only the Iraqis can solve the problem in Iraq. They're fighting with each other, and our troops are caught in between, and I say it's time to redeploy."
Republicans responded by citing threats to U.S. security since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, as well as successes such as the killing of terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in Iraq, and successful elections in Iraq and Afghanistan.
House Republican Leader John Boehner:
"The events of 9-11 demonstrated that we had to show our own resolve as the world's premier defender of freedom and liberty, before such ideals were prayed upon rather than after, standing witness to their demise at the hands of our enemies."
In the end, an overwhelming majority of Democrats voted against the resolution, while 42 broke from their ranks to support it. Among Republicans, only three voted against the measure.
The debate occurred as opinion polls show significant pessimism among Americans about the military situation in Iraq, and continuing low approval ratings for President Bush on the issue.