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Analysis: House And Senate Continue To Debate Iraq Resolutions

All Things Considered: October 9, 2002

Congress - Iraq

JOHN YDSTIE, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm John Ydstie.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

Congress is likely to give President Bush the power to go to war against Iraq soon, possibly this week. The House is scheduled to vote on its resolution tomorrow, and the Senate may follow suit as soon as tomorrow night, although some lawmakers are still hoping to delay that vote. NPR's Steve Inskeep reports that momentum gained in both chambers today despite news of a US intelligence estimate that Iraq may not pose an imminent threat.

STEVE INSKEEP reporting:

This letter from the CIA says that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein is unlikely to use chemical or biological weapons as long as the United States doesn't attack him. Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle says that prediction supports the doubts that some lawmakers have about the war.

Senator TOM DASCHLE (Majority Leader): Well, I think that many of us have said from the beginning that we have not seen any intelligence information that would give us any conclusive evidence to suggest that the threat was imminent. I think this public report now bears that conclusion out.

INSKEEP: But Senate Republican Leader Trent Lott says the intelligence estimate will make no difference. Lott told reporters the Senate is slowly moving toward an overwhelming vote for President Bush.

Senator TRENT LOTT (Minority Leader): We're going to have an Iraq resolution that gives the president the authority he needs. It's going to be overwhelming, it's going to be bipartisan and it cannot be blocked, it can only be delayed, and to no avail.

INSKEEP: The debate has been extended by Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia. He pleaded with his colleagues to allow more time.

Senator ROBERT BYRD (Democrat, West Virginia): We're short-changing the American people. We're short-changing ourselves as representatives of the American people.

INSKEEP: But today, the plan to give the president authority to strike Iraq moved closer to passage. Florida Senator Bob Graham proposed an amendment that actually would have given the president more power to strike independent terrorist groups if necessary.

Senator BOB GRAHAM (Democrat, Florida): This amendment will designate a set of international terrorist organizations for whom the president does not now have the authority to use force as within the range of his authority.

INSKEEP: Senators defeated that idea 88-to-10. White House supporters want no added complications to this measure. They want it to pass quickly and they want it to match a resolution that the House is expected to pass as soon as tomorrow.

Only a handful of opponents continued speaking against the president's plan in the Senate today. One of them is Russ Feingold. Last fall, the Wisconsin lawmaker was the only senator who voted against the so-called Patriot Act. He thought the effort to improve domestic security went too far. Today, Senator Feingold suggested that Americans may have reason to question the Bush administration's motives for seeking a war resolution now.

Senator RUSS FEINGOLD (Democrat, Wisconsin): What am I talking about? I'm talking about the spectacle of the president and senior administration officials citing a purported connection to al-Qaeda one day, weapons of mass destruction the next day, Saddam Hussein's treatment of his own people on another day and then on some days the issue of Kuwaiti prisoners of war.

INSKEEP: Senators still have at least another day of votes to go. They'll begin voting tomorrow to shorten debate, and an administration supporter, John McCain, says lawmakers have spoken enough about Saddam Hussein.

Senator JOHN McCAIN (Republican, Arizona): The Armed Services Committee has held numerous hearings. In reality, though, Mr. President, this issue has been with us for 11 years.

INSKEEP: In the next day or two, McCain and his colleagues may finish talking and give President Bush the power to act. Steve Inskeep, NPR News, the Capitol.

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