Dems Push Anti-War Resolution, Stall Alternatives

By Nathan Burchfiel | July 7, 2008 | 8:32pm EDT

( - As the U.S. House of Representatives begins debate on a non-binding resolution criticizing President Bush's troop "surge" policy for Iraq, some lawmakers are frustrated that the Congress is not considering bills that offer alternative approaches to the conflict.

The House Rules Committee on Monday night issued a special order allowing for debate of a resolution submitted by Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) that would express the House's disapproval of Bush's plan to send an additional 21,500 soldiers to Iraq. The resolution is non-binding and if passed would have only a symbolic effect.

While Skelton's resolution is being fast-tracked through the legislative process -- the special order allowed it to avoid the normal committee procedure -- other resolutions that offer alternative plans are being shelved, including one introduced in January by Virginia Republican Frank Wolf.

Wolf, who was a driving force in the creation of the Iraq Study Group, introduced a resolution on Jan. 24 urging President Bush to institute the major recommendations made by the ISG. Like Skelton's resolution, Wolf's is non-binding and would carry no legal authority.

The resolution expresses the "sense of Congress that the House supports the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group," specifically mentioning its proposals to set timeframes for completion of objectives and launching a "new diplomatic initiative to unite the region."

Wolf on Monday night attempted to obtain a special order for his resolution similar to the order for Skelton's, but the Rules Committee refused, condemning it to the cumbersome committee process, where the bill appears to be stalled.

Loren Dealy, a spokeswoman for the Armed Services Committee, told Cybercast News Service that while the House will consider Skelton's resolution this week, other proposals suggesting alternatives are not on the committee's schedule.

A spokesman for the Foreign Affairs Committee, where Wolf's resolution was also submitted, did not respond to calls requesting comment. The committee's publicized schedule does not include hearings on Iraq proposals.

Dan Scandling, a spokesman for Wolf, said the House needs to move forward on proposing alternatives instead of simply opposing the president.

"We've got to address the situation, and here is a blueprint more than just saying we disagree," Scandling said. "The president said, 'Look, I'll look at other plans, I'll look at other ideas.' This is another idea, this is another plan."

He said Wolf's proposal is "really the only comprehensive plan. It's not a condemnation of the president's thing, it's not just a support-the-troops [resolution]. It gives a blueprint as a way to move forward."

But some analysts question whether Congress should be attempting to influence war policy at all.

David Rivkin, a lawyer with Baker Hostetler, LLP who worked in the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations, said Americans "should be greatly concerned by this attempt by Congress to over-reach their authority by seeking to gain control of war strategy, which is unarguably the sole constitutional responsibility of our chief executive."

"Whether the resulting resolution is binding or not," Rivkin said, "the House's intention is clear - to influence the direction of future Iraq war strategy and policy."

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