House leaders plan a concise resolution on Bush strategy

WASHINGTON — WASHINGTON -- The House of Representatives will confront President Bush next week with a short, straightforward resolution expressing opposition to his plan to boost troop levels in Iraq.

Forgoing the complex language that tied up the Senate's debate of the war this week, House Democrats said yesterday that they will offer a concise measure that expresses support for the troops and opposition to the Bush strategy.


But Democratic leaders billed the nonbinding measure as the beginning of a more expansive campaign to begin forcing an end to the nearly four-year-old war. "This is the first step, a first step, of many steps available to the Congress as we proceed," said Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Southern Maryland, echoing words used by the most staunchly anti-war members of the House.

Democratic lawmakers - including Pennsylvania Rep. John P. Murtha, who heads the defense appropriations subcommittee - have talked of restricting funding for the war.


California Reps. Lynn Woolsey, Barbara Lee and Maxine Waters are pushing legislation to begin a phased withdrawal over the next six months.

And yesterday, Pennsylvania Rep. Joe Sestak, a former three-star admiral who defeated a Republican incumbent in November, introduced legislation setting a timetable for withdrawing U.S. forces from Iraq by the end of the year.

Congressional Democrats have promised a vigorous challenge to Bush's leadership of the war since they captured majorities in the House and Senate in November.

But plans for a Senate resolution opposing the addition of 21,500 troops, in part to control sectarian violence in Iraq, foundered this week amid fierce partisan squabbling in the upper chamber.

On Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada ceded leadership of the campaign against the Bush plan to the House, where Democrats hold a more commanding majority.

House Democratic leaders had considered debating the same resolution that stalled in the Senate. That measure - sponsored by Sen. John W. Warner, a Virginia Republican, and backed by Republican and Democratic lawmakers - expounded at length on presidential powers and critiques of the war before urging the president to explore alternative policies.