Southern California lawmakers split along party lines Tuesday as Congress opened debate on the Iraq War and a Democratic resolution opposing President Bush’s plan to add more 21,500 troops to the effort. But many local families most closely touched by the war said they are torn over the proposed troop increase and what Congress’ response should be. “If the troops get extra help, great,” said Carolyn Steinbacher of La Crescenta, whose 22-year-old son, Nicholas, an Army specialist, was killed last December by a roadside bomb in Iraq. But, Steinbacher added, “If you send more troops, you put families in the situation that I’m in – the loss of a child. We’re caught between the fire and the frying pan.” Local lawmakers came down strongly along party lines, with Republicans accusing their political rivals of sending a disheartening message and offering no alternative. A vote on the resolution is expected by the end of the week. “The impact that it has on troops is a great concern,” said Rep. Elton Gallegly, R-Thousand Oaks. “Is there not a contradiction when you say, `We support our troops’ and the way we support them in the next breath is not to give them reinforcement?” Added Rep. David Dreier, R-Glendora: “It tries to shroud their lack of support in our troops with platitudes. You cannot claim to support our troops without supporting their mission.” While some Republicans expressed support for the troop increase, other GOP lawmakers avoided the topic altogether and instead focused on attacking the resolution as harmful to morale. “\ some serious doubts about the military strategy, but this resolution is silliness,” said James Geoffrey, a spokesman for Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Santa Clarita. “You’re sending troops into battle with one house of the Congress saying, `We support you, we just don’t support what you’re doing.’ That’s not helpful.” Democrats, meanwhile, stood their ground in opposition. “I’m going to strongly support the House resolution,” said Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Pasadena, who voted in favor of the 2003 invasion but feels that increasing troop levels is the wrong direction. “The Shiites and the Sunnis are going to have to decide that they want to live together in the same nation, and if they don’t, no amount of American military force is going to persuade them otherwise,” Schiff added. Schiff dismissed GOP statements that Democrats have no alternative, and said his party is calling for stepped-up diplomatic efforts and a military draw-down. “I think they would like to posit if you don’t agree with escalation, there’s no alternative. That’s not the case,” Schiff said. Rep. Hilda Solis, D-El Monte, held up photographs of soldiers from her district who had been killed in Iraq. “The president’s proposal to escalate ignores the real needs of our troops,” she said. Rep. Linda S nchez, D-Cerritos, called the resolution “the clearest and most nonpartisan” she had seen in Congress related to Iraq. Rep. Grace Napolitano, D-Santa Fe Springs, also plan to support it, a spokesman said. Schiff said he does not believe that troops in Iraq see the resolution as an abandonment of U.S. support. “The troops are very sophisticated about what’s going on back home. Many of them also have mixed feelings about the direction of the war, just as the American public does,” he said. But Ed Blecksmith of San Marino, whose 22-year-old son J.P. – a U.S. Marine – died in Iraq during the 2004 battle of Fallujah, said he is convinced the resolution undermines troop morale and the cause behind his son’s death. “I don’t like what Congress is doing. They’re playing rather frivolously with the lives of our troops over there,” Blecksmith said. “If we pull out now, then J.P. will have died in vain.” On the other hand, some war protesters say Congress isn’t going far enough. Monica Carrasco, a member of the Foothills Peace Coalition – some of whose members were kicked out of Dreier’s office during a Tuesday protest – criticized the “non-binding resolution” being debated. “Just the word `non-binding’ right there tells us that the Democrats are missing their backbone,” Carrasco said. “We want to see concrete, direct change, and these little gestures are not enough.” Staff Writer Alison Hewitt contributed to this story. [email protected] (202) 662-8731 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!