WASHINGTON -- A House resolution intended to show Congress' unified support for U.S. troops in Iraq had the wholehearted backing of Eighth District Rep. Jo Ann Emerson when it passed overwhelmingly early today.
On Thursday in a telephone interview, Emerson spoke about the upcoming vote and the mood in Washington.
"I'm very supportive of our president and the actions we are taking," said Emerson about the war in Iraq.
"I'm praying that it will be swift and that the majority of our soldiers will come home soon," she continued, adding that some troops will have to stay in the country as efforts are made to stabilize the government after Saddam Hussein is forced out.
Friday's vote angered some Democrats who said they felt pressured into backing President Bush's decision to go to war. The Democrats said the Republican House leadership was forcing them to offer ''unequivocal support'' of Bush ''for his firm leadership and decisive action in the conduct of military operations in Iraq'' -- or reject a resolution showing support for soldiers and their families at a time of war.
The 392-11 House vote, with 22 members voting present, came after a sometimes angry and emotional debate. It contrasted with the few reservations expressed in a 99-0 Senate vote Thursday for a similar resolution with less effusive praise for the president. One senator, Zell Miller, R-Ga., was absent because of an illness in his family.
From her Washington office, Emerson also spoke of the dissension about the war but said overall she is seeing overwhelming support of the troops from the American public. She urged residents to add their support as well.
"I hope to get as many people as possible to send words of encouragement to our troops," she said. Emerson estimated there are about a dozen National Guard units from the Eighth District which have been activated and are serving either in the U.S. or overseas now. "I'm so proud of them. I know it is a scary time for them but I pray for safety and security and that they are home quick."
The Eighth District representative said she had heard from one group which opposed the war. In response to their letter, which she described as very thoughtful, she sat down and wrote her own response addressing each of their points.
"I didn't agree with them but my ultimate point was: Aren't you glad you live in a country that allows us to disagree on such important issues? I believe our action in Iraq is to preserve those freedoms."
According to the Emerson, Congress is being updated by officials with the Homeland Security Administration and its director, Tom Ridge. While describing it as a "massive undertaking" to bring all the agencies under one department, she indicated it should make security more efficient.
Originally scheduled to be in Cape Girardeau today for a conference, Emerson said she would not be able to leave Washington, D.C., and would speak to the group by telephone.
She added that Congress has several important pending issues including making certain there is supplemental appropriations to pay for the war and to fund states' efforts for homeland security operations.
(Some information for this article was provided by the Associated Press.)