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Analysis: Congress Takes Big Step Towards Approving A Resolution Regarding Possible War With Iraq

All Things Considered: October 2, 2002

Congress - Iraq Debate



ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

JACKI LYDEN, host:

And I'm Jacki Lyden.

Congress today took a long step toward authorizing war against Iraq. After a breakfast meeting with President Bush, the top Republican and top Democrat from the House announced they'd reached an agreement on a revised Iraq resolution. Soon after, a bipartisan group of senators also endorsed the document, but Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle is still holding out for possible changes. NPR's David Welna reports from the Capitol.

DAVID WELNA reporting:

After some two weeks of back-room haggling by congressional and White House staffers over the language of an Iraq resolution, Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert declared today he was ready to stand by a new compromise that he said allows unilateral action by the president to protect Americans.

Representative DENNIS HASTERT (Speaker of the House): The resolution does not tie the president's hands. It gives him flexibility he needs to get the job done. This resolution does not require the president to get United Nations approval before proceeding. It supports the president's effort to work with the United Nations, but it doesn't require him to seek UN approval first.

WELNA: Unlike the resolution first proposed by the White House, this one clearly authorizes military action only against Iraq. If the president resorts to force, he must notify Congress that using diplomacy no longer protects the US from Iraq or leads to the enforcement of UN resolutions. And the president must update Congress at least once every 60 days on the situation in Iraq if he does, indeed, invade. House Democratic Leader Dick Gephardt declared he, too, endorsed the resolution.

Representative DICK GEPHARDT (House Minority Leader): I think it's a positive step. It does define a lot of this better than it has been in the past. It's quite a different resolution from where we started when the president sent his resolution last week.

WELNA: Senate Majority Leader Daschle, who also breakfasted with the president, remained a holdout. He said fellow senators, both Democrats and Republicans, needed more time to resolve their differences with the compromised resolution.

Senator TOM DASCHLE (Majority Leader): I know that Senator Levin and Senator Lugar and Senator Biden and a number of other senators have ideas that they have continued to put forth, and we'll continue to work to see whether we can find some either procedural ways with which to address the differences or come together on a resolution.

WELNA: But by midday, it was clear that some of Daschle's fellow Democrats were not interested in dueling resolutions. Connecticut Democrat Joe Lieberman rose on the Senate floor to introduce the same language embraced today by the House leaders. He called it a way of showing support for the president in pursuit of international support for action against Saddam Hussein.

Senator JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (Democrat, Connecticut): It is also a way to strengthen the president's hand as commander in chief if Saddam does not comply or the United Nations is not willing to take action to enforce its orders.

WELNA: A short time later, President Bush invited House leaders and senators from both parties who were backing the new resolution to an outdoor press conference at the White House. Daschle was conspicuously absent as the president, in front of a phalanx of stern-faced lawmakers, urged congressional support for the revised document.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: As the vote nears, I urge all members of Congress to consider this resolution with the greatest of care. The choice before them could not be more consequential. I'm confident that members of both parties will choose wisely.

WELNA: Daschle later issued a statement saying he believed a final resolution should stress eliminating Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. Still, he said the Senate would take up the Iraq resolution shortly, perhaps tomorrow, but it will be the original resolution sent by the White House rather than today's compromise. Republican Senator John Warner assured the president that the Senate would back him in bigger numbers than it gave the first President Bush for the Persian Gulf War resolution in 1991.

Senator JOHN WARNER (Republican, Virginia): Mr. President, we delivered for your father; we will deliver for you. And I predict, while the vote was a margin of five in '91, it'll be a stronger bipartisan margin this time.

WELNA: Both the House and the Senate are expected to vote on the resolution next week. David Welna, NPR News, the Capitol.

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