WASHINGTON – Two Republican and two Democratic representatives pushed a non-binding resolution on Thursday that would require an Iraq exit strategy by the end of this year with implementation beginning by October 2006.
"After 1,700 deaths, over 12,000 wounded and $200 billion spent, we believe it is time to have this debate and this discussion," said Rep. Walter Jones (search) of North Carolina, who was joined with fellow Republican Rep. Ron Paul (search) of Texas and Democratic Reps. Dennis Kucinich (search) of Ohio and Neil Abercrombie of Hawaii, in offering the non-binding resolution.
On the House floor, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi pushed a separate amendment to the defense budget currently being debated. It would require that President Bush outline an Iraq exit strategy next month.
"The American people, particularly our troops who serve in harm's way, deserve better," Pelosi said.
Bush has repeatedly said the United States will withdraw from Iraq when Iraqi security forces are able to defend their own country. The administration argues that deadlines send the wrong message to Iraqis, the troops and the insurgents.
"This message would say to the terrorists all you have to do is wait until that day when our troops leave and then you can start carrying out those attacks and just hold out," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said.
The Pentagon cited several cases over the years when the withdrawal of U.S. troops from various conflicts left dangerously unfinished business and inspired insurgents.
"They see where we have withdrawn previously, in Vietnam, in Beirut, in Somalia and nothing would make them happier," said Lt. Gen. James Conway, staff director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
In the weeks ahead, aides say the president will deliver a series of speeches designed to reassure the public about Iraqi progress. Officials say Bush is concerned that Americans are worried about Iraq and impatient to get U.S. troops home.
"The president recognizes that this is a concern that's on the minds of the American people and that's why he is going to sharpen his focus, spending more time talking about the progress that's being made on the ground," McClellan said.
Among the planned events, Bush has scheduled a major address for June 28, the one-year anniversary of the transfer of sovereignty from the U.S.-led coalition to Iraqis. Next week, he meets with Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, elected in January and chosen by fellow lawmakers to lead the transitional government.
Bush is also scheduling a series of radio addresses and appearances outside Washington and plans to emphasize the importance of democracy in Iraq and elsewhere when he meets with fellow world leaders in Gleneagles, Scotland, in July, McClellan said.
One senior official said during those events, the president will give examples of daily efforts by Iraqis to step up to the plate and take over control of their nation. The official said many Americans likely are not fully apprised of the day-to-day progress.
For instance, on Thursday, the Iraqi committee crafting a constitution ended weeks of gridlock when Shiite Muslims agreed to increase the number of Sunnis working on the project. U.S. officials said that was one more bit of evidence that democracy is winning and the insurgency will not be able to stop the political process from moving forward on schedule.
Even as Iraq progresses toward self-government, Michigan Democratic Rep. John Conyers and other Democrats are rehashing the entry into the Iraq war. Conyers on Thursday unveiled and delivered to the White House a petition with 500,000 signatures collected by the anti-war group Moveon.org demanding answers about Britain's so-called Downing Street memo, which critics say indicates the Bush administration deceived the public in the run-up to the Iraq war. Both Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair have flatly denied such accusations and White House aides almost refuse to discuss the subject.
"This is an individual who voted against the war [and] is simply trying to rehash old debates," McClellan said.
Click in the box near the top of the story to watch a report by FOX News' Carl Cameron.