* Republican lawmakers slam revocation of visas
* Rep. Connie Mack say it is "attempt to intimidate"
* Protest votes cast against diplomatic nominees
(Recasts with lawmakers' comments, Senate panel vote)
By Susan Cornwell
WASHINGTON, July 28 Republicans blasted the Obama administration on Tuesday for revoking visas for members of the de facto government in Honduras, saying Washington was trying to force the restoration of its leftist government.
The United States has refused to recognize the government led by Roberto Micheletti, who took over the coffee and textile-producing Central American nation after President Manuel Zelaya was toppled in a June 28 coup.
Washington already had cut $16.5 million in U.S. military to Honduras before it revoked on Tuesday diplomatic visas for four officials in Micheletti's government.
Conservative Republicans in Congress attacked the move as an overly aggressive tactic aimed at bringing back Zelaya, who is an ally of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, a socialist and ardent foe of the United States.
Pulling the visas "looks like an attempt to intimidate and kind of manipulate the outcome" in Honduras, said Connie Mack, a Florida Republican in the House of Representatives, who met Micheletti on a fact-finding visit to Honduras last weekend.
Micheletti's government, backed by Honduras' Supreme Court and Congress, has refused to bend amid widespread international condemnation of the coup, and it insists that Zelaya cannot come back and serve out his remaining six months in office.
It says Zelaya was ousted as he sought a referendum vote to change the constitution, a move the Honduran Supreme Court ruled illegal. Zelaya's critics say he was trying to extend presidential term limits so he could be re-elected.
The deposed leader denies the claims.
Mack told Reuters it was his understanding that Tomas Arita Valle, a Supreme Court justice who signed Zelaya's arrest order last month, and Jose Saavedra, a leader of the Honduran Congress, were among those who had their visas revoked.
Mack added that U.S. diplomats in the Honduran capital Tegucigalpa had confirmed to him during his visit that the Supreme Court justice's visa would be revoked.
Another Florida Republican, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, on Tuesday wrote to the U.S. ambassador to Honduras, Hugo Llorens, to express her "deep concern" about the decision to rescind the visas.
"Rather than upholding the principles of a true democracy, these actions appear to punish those who are working to preserve the idea of checks and balances in Honduras," the congresswoman wrote.
SENATE PROTEST VOTE
Explaining the decision to pull the visas, U.S. State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said "we don't recognize Roberto Micheletti as the president of Honduras, we recognize Manuel Zelaya."
Republicans in the U.S. Senate, where they are the minority, cast protest votes against two U.S. diplomatic nominees for Latin American posts on Tuesday in response to the government's stand on Honduras.
The Senate Foreign Relations committee voted 15-4 to confirm Arturo Valenzuela as Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, the senior diplomat in charge of Latin America at the State Department.
It also voted 14-4, with one abstention, to confirm Thomas Shannon, who currently holds the assistant secretary position, to be U.S. ambassador to Brazil.
Conservative Republican Senator Jim DeMint, who led the opposition to the nominees, told reporters that revocation of the visas was inexplicable and played into the hands of anti-U.S. governments in Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua.
"It continues to defy reason, of why we won't listen to the real facts of this case," DeMint said.
(Editing by Tim Gaynor and Paul Simao)