"The Bush administration has consistently been wrong about the execution of this war," Rothman said two weeks ago. "Why on God's good earth would we now want to believe that this president has got it right, three and a half years into this war, and believe him when he says giving him more troops will make everything all better?"
During the president's State of the Union address Tuesday night, Bush tried to convince the nation that it's worth continuing the war in Iraq with a new strategy. "I ask you to give it a chance to work," Bush said.
Rothman begs to differ.
A vocal critic of the war in Iraq, Rothman was named to the House Appropriations Committee's Subcommittee on Defense earlier this month.
The Appropriations Committee makes decisions about federal spending, with the Defense Subcommittee focusing on military issues, including the Iraq conflict.
With the Democrats now in the majority in the House and the Senate, Rothman will help reshape the nation's defense policy.
Initially voted for the war
Rothman was first elected to Congress in 1996. He has been a member of the House Appropriations Committee for the past six years, serving on various different subcommittees, including the Judiciary and Foreign Relations committees.
After the recent power shift in Washington, a new position became possible for Rothman.
"This year, there was an opportunity given my seniority to get a seat on the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, and I grabbed it," he said. "Being on this subcommittee allows me to have a voice in how our military is funded, in particular whether there will be any limitations on the use of Congressional funding as relates to the Iraq war."
Rothman said that he initially voted for the war because he believed there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
"I originally voted to authorize the president to undertake military operations in Iraq in response to the administration's classified and unclassified briefings about Saddam Hussein's imminent threat to America's national security," he said, "in particular with regard to the development of weapons of mass destruction."
But things changed.
"It became clear pretty quickly after we deposed Hussein that these weapons of mass destruction had never existed, or existed in a form that was not a threat to our national security," he said.
In the aftermath of these intelligence errors, Rothman initially felt that the American government owed the people of Iraq a "moral obligation" to keep U.S. troops in Iraq to help rebuild the country and stabilize Iraq in the face of a "political vacuum."
However, Rothman now feels the time has come for America to take its final steps in Iraq
"After more than three and a half years of war, 3,000 dead American troops, close to 25,000 wounded, and almost half a trillion U.S. taxpayer dollars spent, we have more than met any such moral obligation," he said. "It's become more than clear to many Americans, including myself, that what's happening in Iraq is a fight over power and oil resources amongst Iraqis. They have been unwilling to come together besides the presence of approximately 150,000 U.S. troops. We talk about giving Iraqis a chance to live in a democratic society. According to recent polls, 80 percent of Iraqis want us to leave immediately. If we wish to respect the will of the Iraqi people, how can we choose to reject their will when they tell us that we've done enough and want us to leave?"
Favors redeployment, not troop increases
The new chairman of the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee is U.S. Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa., 12th Dist.). Murtha, a Vietnam veteran, has been a particularly outspoken opponent of the Iraq war. In November 2005, Murtha called for the redeployment of U.S. troops in Iraq (rather than troop increases), claiming that the U.S. would be unable to realize any further goals there militarily.
Rothman stated that his thoughts about how to proceed in Iraq were closely aligned to that of Murtha's.
"I think Rep. Murtha's views will be closely followed by Congress, and in particular by the Democratic majority," he said. "Anyone who knows Murtha knows that he spent almost his entire adult life in military service. His strong historic support of the military and his track record of good advice I believe is going to be respected and followed by many Democrats and even a great many Republicans."
Rothman himself believes that the U.S. should withdraw virtually all of our troops from Iraq, redeploy most troops back home, and leave a force of about 20,000 to 30,000 troops in the region in countries friendly to America, such as Jordan or Kuwait.
These forces would be used as a quick reaction force to "intimidate and deter" other countries, such as Iran, from interfering and invading Iraq.
The Appropriations Committee also plays a role in how Homeland Security dollars are spent. As the only Democratic member of the committee from New Jersey, Rothman is well aware of the risk of terrorist attack facing his state.
"I was a member of the minority, so many of my views about Homeland Security dollars being given out on the basis of risk assessment versus on a per-state basis were ignored by the majority," he said. "I hope that now that the Democrats have taken the majority, there will be big change in how homeland security funds are appropriated."
He added, "I've been waiting 10 years to have the chance to promote a more progressive agenda for our country. It has been extremely frustrating."
Although the Democrats are now in the majority, Rothman is still frustrated with the Bush administration's prosecution of the Iraq war, including with the administration's desire to send 20,000 more U.S. troops to Iraq. The difference is that now, Rothman feels more empowered.
"I'm hoping that there will be a change in priorities that reflect mainstream American views that appeal to and represent the vast majority of Democrats, Republicans, and independents alike," he said.