(WASHINGTON) — The House on Friday voted 256-153 to support the military mission in Iraq after two days of passionate and partisan debate in which Republicans tried to recast an unpopular conflict as part of a broader war on terrorism and totalitarianism.

Forty-two Democrats bucked their leadership to join a virtually united Republican Party and declare that the United States must complete ‘the mission to create a sovereign, free, secure and united Iraq’ without setting ‘an arbitrary date for the withdrawal or redeployment’ of U.S. troops.

Three Republicans — Reps. Ron Paul of Texas, John Duncan Jr. of Tennessee and Jim Leach of Iowa — joined 149 Democrats and one independent to oppose the resolution. Three Democrats and two Republicans voted present in protest. Nineteen lawmakers did not vote.

In the Washington state delegation, Democrats Rick Larsen and Adam Smith joined Republicans Doc Hastings and Cathy McMorris in supporting the nonbinding resolution, while Democrats Brian Baird, Norm Dicks, Jay Inslee and Jim McDermott voted against it. Republican Dave Reichert, in the Seattle area at a fundraiser headlined by President Bush, did not vote.

Public-opinion polls continue to show the Iraq war is unpopular, even after the death last week of terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Convinced they cannot avoid the issue in an election year, Republicans tried to put Democrats on the defensive with the first extended debate on the war since Congress authorized the use of force nearly four years ago.

House Republicans linked the war to the Sept. 11 attacks, the war on terrorism and to what they view as the Clinton administration’s repeated failures to act after terrorist attacks in the 1990s.

“The American public deserves to hear how their elected leaders will respond to international terrorism and those enemies who seek to destroy our American way of life. Will we fight or will we retreat?” asked House Majority Leader John Boehner of Ohio. “Let me be clear: Those who say this is a war of choice are nothing more than wrong. This is a war of necessity.” More…

We have heard from the “political” leaders… what are your thoughts?