WASHINGTON (CNN) – The House Thursday decisively rejected a resolution directing the president to withdraw U.S. forces from Afghanistan this year, but the vote also showed a deep divide in the president's own party on the war.
The final vote tally was 321 to 93, with 85 Democrats supporting the proposal.
The resolution to draw down all troops by the end of 2011, introduced by Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, is not the congressman's first effort to end U.S. involvement in the war. But this year it gained more Democratic support, as many in the party voiced their deep concern with the costly and difficult struggle.
Eight Republicans joined Democrats in supporting the measure, some citing the need for fiscal discipline, others saying military energy should be directed at greater threats.
Several Democrats, who have spent weeks fending off Republican budget cuts, said their colleagues had overlooked the Afghanistan conflict. Kucinich appealed to conservatives on fiscal grounds during debate Thursday.
"If Congress is serious about being fiscally responsible and about cutting the federal budget by three figures, then cutting spending on the out-of-control, $100-billion-a-year war in Afghanistan must be a serious consideration," Kucinich exhorted fellow members.
"When you guys say 'deficit' and 'debt', we're going to say 'Afghanistan,'" said Rep. Bob Filner, D-California, gesturing towards his Republican colleagues.
Rep. John Duncan, R-Texas, agreed, and supported the proposal.
"There's nothing fiscally conservative about this war, and I think conservatives should be the people most horrified by this war," he said. "We turned the Department of Defense into the department of foreign aid."
Public support for the war is dismal, a fact acknowledged by members on both sides and one which military leaders sought to appease in hearings on Capitol Hill this week.
In testimony before the House Armed Services Committee Wednesday, Gen. David Petraeus, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, described seeing progress since taking over operations in the country last June. Petraeus told lawmakers many regions are safer and Afghan troops and law enforcement are taking on a larger role in patrolling the country.
He added that the speedy drawdown advocated in the Kucinich bill would undermine U.S. national security interests.
"The Taliban and al Qaida obviously would trumpet this as a victory, as a success," he said. "Needless to say, it would completely undermine everything that our troops have fought so much for and sacrificed so much for."
The defense department expects to transition control of security for the country to Afghan forces by December 2014. Petraeus said he would likely recommend some combat forces be included in the drawdown of U.S. forces from Afghanistan in July.
Republican Jason Chaffetz of Utah choked up on the House floor as he read aloud a list of his constituents who had died while serving in the conflict.
"As I've talked to each of their parents, they want those rules of engagement changed, and they want to end this war in Afghanistan - with victory," he said haltingly.
Chaffetz, who supported the bill, took on fellow Republicans like Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Florida, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, over the definition of victory in the conflict. Ros-Lehtinen charged "to withdraw from Afghanistan at this point, before we finish the job, is to pave the way for another 9/11."
"I reject the notion that bringing our troops home at some point - which I consider a victory - is somehow a pathway or paving a pathway to another 9/11," Chaffetz responded. "I think that's offensive. I think that's inaccurate."
The few GOP supporters of the bill were far outnumbered by Republicans who said withdrawal would be disastrous.
"I think my colleagues know that I'm very uncomfortable spending taxpayer dollars without a solid justification, and I match my fiscal conservative credentials with anybody in this body," said Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Ohio. "But when it comes to national security and when it comes to the care and protection of our troops in harm's way, we must not be … penny wise and pound foolish."