WASHINGTON – Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Frederick, stood alone Friday as Maryland’s sole House member to vote against the Iraq resolution.
The House of Representatives voted 246-182, with six not voting, in favor of the nonbinding resolution, designed to showcase the lack of support for the Bush administration’s Iraq policy.
In a statement, Bartlett said he cast his ‘no’ vote, “not because I believe the surge will be helpful, but rather because I believe that a ‘yes’ vote will send the wrong message to our enemies and might send the wrong message to our troops.”
Rep. Wayne Gilchrest, R-Kennedyville, questioned President Bush’s Iraq strategy and was one of 17 Republicans who voted in favor of the resolution, calling it “a step forward in the right direction.”
“This is one of those votes that everyone knows comes down to every member’s conscience,” Gilchrest said in a statement. “I voted for this resolution for the troops, because we can’t continue to gamble their lives on a policy that I feel is headed in the wrong direction.”
“This resolution is not a retreat from Iraq,” Gilchrest said. “If our young men and women are brave enough to go into Iraq and Afghanistan, then we as members of Congress must be brave enough and informed to start a dialogue in Damascus, in Tehran, in the entire region, to hasten peace.”
The fewer than 100-word resolution, introduced by Reps. Ike Skelton, D-Mo., Tom Lantos, D-Calif., and Walter Jones, D-N.C., contains two parts. The first pledges support to those serving, or who have served in Iraq, and the second disapproves of Bush’s Jan. 10 announcement to deploy more than 20,000 additional troops to Iraq.
Nonbinding means the resolution does not bind the Bush administration to follow a specific course of action.
Adam Sheingate a political science professor at Johns Hopkins University said he doubts any of the members feel their votes will influence Bush’s course of action.
“Just because it is nonbinding, doesn’t mean it doesn’t have political effect,” said University of Maryland political science professor Ronald Walters. “It draws a line in the sand.”
“It’s more important for individual members to be heard by their constituents,” Sheingate said. Both Republicans and Democrats get a chance to go on the record.
Each of the 435 members of Congress was given five minutes on the House floor to express his or her views.
“The Bush administration has been wrong about this war from the beginning and it is wrong again now,” said Rep. Chris Van Hollen Jr., D-Kensington, during his floor speech.
“Some say that this resolution is merely symbolic,” said Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Mechanicsville, in a statement. “To them, I simply say that the bipartisan expression of the will of this House, when it mirrors the views of the vast majority of Americans, cannot be casually ignored.”
Hoyer’s displeasure with the current Iraq strategy was echoed by fellow Democrats.
“We cannot allow more to be asked of our soldiers now if their mission is not clear,” said Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Baltimore, in a statement.
“This president does not acknowledge the depth of past mistakes, and his plan does not provide a new strategy for success,” Rep. Albert Wynn, D-Mitchellville, said in his speech. “The American people deserve better.”
Strategy, or lack of it, was a common theme from the Maryland delegation, as was the sacrifice of the troops.
“The only people sacrificing in this war are the troops and their families,” said Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Cockeysville, in a prepared statement.
Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Towson, echoed Ruppersberger as he pleaded on the House floor, to “bring our troops home to their families, to their communities, and to a nation that stands humbled by their sacrifice.”
The simple language used in the resolution is “a little bit of a public relations battle between the Democrats and Republicans,” Sheingate said.
Simple language can help achieve a majority, while making it look like a bipartisan effort, but with tighter language a vote would likely fall on party lines, said Sheingate.
Last week in a pen-and-pad session for reporters, Hoyer said Republicans would have an opportunity to introduce a substitute alternative measure, but that never materialized. The resolution was also initially supposed to be a joint effort between the House and Senate, but whereas and therefore clauses were cluttering the question and getting in the way of a straightforward answer, Hoyer said on “Meet the Press.”
“This vote sends a message that this Congress is going to limit American involvement where it can,” said Walters, adding the votes on the supplemental appropriation bill, the appropriation bill and the defense authorization bill, carry more weight.
The Senate will vote Saturday on its lengthier Iraq resolution.
Capital News Service reporter Patricia M. Murret contributed to this report.