Washington Breaking ranks, a small band of House Republicans declared their opposition to a troop buildup in Iraq on Wednesday, and President Bush appeared resigned to passage of a nonbinding measure disapproving of his decision.
"I'm going to make it very clear to the members of Congress, starting now, that they need to fund our troops," the president said, looking past this week's debate toward congressional action next month on his request for nearly $100 billion for the military.
Bush spoke at a White House news conference timed - coincidentally or not - for the hour that Republican critics of his war policies took their turn in a marathon debate on the House floor.
"I am personally very high on President Bush, but on the matter of troop escalation, I am not in agreement," said Republican Rep. Howard Coble, of North Carolina.
"I insist that we do not maintain an eternal presence in Iraq, if for no other reason than the cost to the taxpayers, which has been astronomically unbelievable," he said. He also noted the war has cost more than 3,100 U.S. troops their lives.
Coble was one of fewer than a dozen Republicans to swing behind the measure. It declares that Congress "disapproves of the decision of President George W. Bush ... to deploy more than 20,000 additional United States combat troops to Iraq."
The 95-word measure adds that "Congress and the American people will continue to support and protect the members of the United States armed forces who are serving or who have served bravely and honorably in Iraq."
By early evening, only one Democrat, Rep. Jim Marshall of Georgia, had announced he would vote in opposition.
Approval is expected on Friday. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has announced plans to try for a vote on an identical bill in the next few weeks. Prospects there are uncertain because Republicans have said they will also demand a vote on an alternative measure that says Congress should neither cut nor eliminate funds for troops in the field.
Democrats took control of Congress after elections last fall that were shaped in large measure by public opposition to the war. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has described the nonbinding measure as the first step in a longer campaign to end U.S. participation in the nearly four-year-old conflict.
Several Democrats have said they favor cutting off money as a way to accomplish that, and Bush was eager to lay down a marker on that issue.
"They have every right to express their opinion, and it is a nonbinding resolution," he said of the measure before the House. But looking ahead, he added that Congress soon "is going to be able to vote on a piece of legislation that is binding, a bill providing emergency funding for our troops. ... We have a responsibility, all of us here in Washington, to make sure that our men and women in uniform have the resources and flexibility they need to prevail."