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House Moderates Call for Iraq Bipartisanship

A bipartisan group of 11 House moderates launched an effort Tuesday to get Republican and Democratic leaders to call off the partisan dogs in hopes of crafting a unified position to bring troops home from the Iraq War.

“We should not wait any longer to come together in support of a responsible post-surge strategy to safely bring our troops home to their families,” reads the letter six Republicans and five Democrats sent to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio).

The letter was signed by Reps. Mike Castle (R-Del.), John Tanner (D-Tenn.), Phil English (R-Pa.), Scott Garrett (R-N.J.), Tim Mahoney (D-Fla.), Jim Gerlach (R-Pa.), Allen Boyd (D-Fla.), Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), Robert Brady (D-Pa.), Tom Petri (R-Wis.) and Dennis Cardoza (D-Calif.).

“While I am hopeful that [Iraq commander] General [David] Petraeus’ report next week will show progress, we shouldn’t wait to begin discussing a post-surge strategy to start turning more of the day-to-day responsibilities over to the Iraqis,” Castle said in a statement.

English said voters in his district want Republicans and Democrats to come together.

“I happen to believe that in terms of post-surge strategy there is a certain amount of common ground … and some interest in trying to find a sustainable formula for pursuing the war on terror,” he said.

English said the group will not immediately endorse a specific bill or existing proposal, asserting that lawmakers need to first consider reports from Petraeus scheduled to be presented to Congress next week, as well as existing Iraq Study Group recommendations.

“I think the Members of the House, of both parties, should be prepared to do what’s right and not respond to a partisan agenda, whether it’s being driven out of the White House or the blogosphere or the [Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee],” English said.

But one Democratic aide argued that the letter indicated moderate Republicans may be willing to split with the White House in coming weeks.

“Republicans are looking for a way out of Iraq. They are talking about redeployment … which is something they haven’t done in the past,” said the Democratic aide, who asked not to be identified.

Pelosi had not met with the bipartisan group as of Tuesday. “We have received the letter and we are reviewing it,” Pelosi spokesman Nadeam Elshami said.

House Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said he had not seen the letter but contended that Republicans are coming back from the August recess far more united on Iraq and other major issues than Democrats.

In the meantime, liberal Democrats will promote legislation Wednesday that would cut off funding for training and equipping Iraqi security forces and Iraqi civilians, a proposal that is unlikely to gain any bipartisan support.

“Without a unifying central government to which a majority of Iraqis are loyal, we are merely training different factions in Iraq’s multiple civil conflicts,” said a release from Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Out of Iraq Caucus. Her release warned that the training and weapons could be used against U.S. forces.

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