By voting "present," many of the Republicans -- who favor continuing to fund the Iraq war -- lodged a protest against being excluded from any role in drafting the legislation.
The measure would have provided $163 billion to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Democrats bypassed the House Appropriations Committee and brought the massive war supplemental spending bill directly to the floor in three parts, a move that Republicans vigorously objected to. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and the Democratic leadership were trying to protect their members from having to vote in favor of war funding.
House Republicans defended the procedural move to kill the war funding portion of the Democratic package, arguing that the president would have vetoed the bill anyway.
"What you saw is certainly an aggressive floor tactic to show that a majority of the majority does not support a clean funding bill for our troops," said House Republican Conference Chairman Rep. Adam Putnam (R-Fla.).
House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) and other top Democrats blasted Republicans for their "present "vote, dismissing the move as a political stunt.
Hoyer, though, admitted that Democrats did not know before the vote that Republicans would vote present, although Democratic leadership aides tried to claim afterward that they were aware of what GOP leaders were up to.
"It was a clear choice, " Hoyer said. "They made the political choice."
Pelois agreed, saying the vote shows Republicans are "confused and in disarray."
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