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Stark Apologizes After Failed Censure Vote

Republicans failed in an effort Tuesday to have the House censure Rep. Pete Stark, D-Calif., who said in a congressional speech last week that U.S. troops are being sent to Iraq "to get their heads blown off for the president's amusement."

Without debate, the House voted 196-173 to kill the proposal to censure Stark for "his despicable conduct." The vote was mostly along party lines, with all 168 Republicans on hand supporting the measure offered by Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio. Five Democrats joined them.

Stark, 75, stirred cries of protest Thursday during a debate over President Bush's veto of a $35 billion increase to a children's health insurance program. "You don't have money to fund the war or children," Stark said on the House floor. "But you're going to spend it to blow up innocent people if we can get enough kids to grow old enough for you to send to Iraq to get their heads blown off for the president's amusement."

Stark initially refused to apologize despite condemnations from GOP lawmakers and others. Moments after Tuesday's vote, however, he addressed the House to apologize to his colleagues, "to the president and his family," and to U.S. troops offended by his remarks.

"I hope that with this apology I will become as insignificant as I should be" in the continuing debates over Iraq and health care, he said. Boehner was among those who applauded.

When asked about Stark's apology during her afternoon briefing with reporters, White House press secretary Dana Perino said: "This is the first I've heard of it. If it's true that he's apologized, I think that's appropriate."

Last week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Stark's remarks on Thursday were "inappropriate and distracted from the seriousness of the subject at hand."

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