The US House of Representatives delivered a stinging rebuke to President George W. Bush over his new strategy on Iraq, in a rare wartime blow to the country's commander-in-chief.
The terse text of the non-binding resolution was adopted by the Democrat-controlled House, also winning the support of 17 of the 201 Republican members.
A total of 246 of the current 434 House members voted for the motion, which says "Congress disapproves of the decision of President George W. Bush announced on January 10, 2007" to send an additional 21,500 troops to Iraq.
It 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."
The vote came at the end of a week of debate, the most serious organized on the Iraq war since the US-led invasion in March 2003, in which all members of the House had a chance to voice their opinion.
For the new Democratic Party majority, Friday's vote finally gives voice to the voters who swept them to power in both chambers of Congress in November elections amid a wave of anger over the Iraq war, which has claimed more than 3,100 US lives.
It presages a rare Saturday session of the upper chamber of Congress, the Senate, which will hold a key procedural vote on whether to kick-start its own debate on a similar motion.
The American electorate "voted for a new direction in our nation -- including a new direction for the war in Iraq," House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said ahead of Friday's vote.
He called on his fellow lawmakers to "demonstrate that we not only have heard the voters' message but also that we have the collective will to send one of our own."
The White House has mounted a broad campaign to explain Bush's new plan to lawmakers and has appealed to Congress not to use its power over the budget to cut off funding for the war.
"The important debate will come when we talk about whether or not Congress will provide the needed support for our troops," White House spokesman Scott Stanzel said.
Bush told a news conference Wednesday: "I am going to make it very clear to the members of Congress ... they need to fund our troops."
In the coming weeks, Congress will have to debate and vote on the budget for the "war on terror," beginning with an outlay of more than 93 billion dollars for 2007.
The debate over financing the war has essentially begun. Under the US constitution, the president is the military commander-in-chief and in charge of foreign policy, but Congress holds the purse strings.
The left wing of the Democratic Party as well as a Democratic presidential contender for the 2008 election, former senator John Edwards, have been pushing Congress to cut war funding.
So far the Democratic establishment has signaled its reluctance to cut funds for the US troops already deployed in Iraq.
But Jack Murtha, chairman of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee and one of the fiercest critics of the Iraq war, has announced he would condition the release of additional funds in a way that would hamper future troop deployments.
Lawmakers must "deny the president the ability to send more US troops into Iraq and to insist instead on restoring our military readiness," Murtha told the activist group Moveon.org.
© Copyright 2007 AFP