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Profile: House Of Representatives Votes To Authorize The President To Use Force Against Iraq

All Things Considered: October 10, 2002

Iraq Resolution

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

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

JOHN YDSTIE, host:

And I'm John Ydstie.

Today the House of Representatives voted to give President Bush the authority to start a war against Iraq. By a vote of 296-to-133, lawmakers approved the language that the president had negotiated with House leaders. NPR's Steve Inskeep watched the final hours of debate at the Capitol.

STEVE INSKEEP reporting:

The resolution allows the president alone to decide when to start a war in Iraq. He does not have to seek further approval from Congress, and he doesn't have to win approval from the United Nations. The House approved the plan after a few final bursts of opposition. Congressman Dennis Kucinich of Ohio attacked the idea of launching a pre-emptive strike against an oil-rich nation.

Representative DENNIS KUCINICH (Democrat, Ohio): We are at a dangerous moment in human history when 20 centuries of moral teachings are about to be turned upside down. Instead of adherence to the Golden Rule, we are being moved toward the rule of liquid gold. Do unto others before they do unto you.

INSKEEP: Supporters of President Bush also referred to religious teachings in a final hour of debate. On the House floor, Republican J.C. Watts spoke of St. Augustine, who wrote centuries ago of the idea of a just war.

Representative J.C. WATTS (Republican, Oklahoma): I believe this vote supports the just-war theory when St. Augustine wrote, again, quote, "We do not seek peace in order to be at war, but we go to war that we may have peace."

INSKEEP: Nearly all Republicans finally supported the president, led by House Majority Whip Tom DeLay.

Representative TOM DeLAY (Republican, Texas; Majority Whip): The war on terrorism will be fought here at home unless we summon the will to confront evil before it attacks.

INSKEEP: DeLay linked a war against Iraq to September 11th and the war on terrorism. But a leading Democrat called Iraq a distraction. Nancy Pelosi is a member of the House Intelligence Committee.

Representative NANCY PELOSI (Democrat, California; House Intelligence Committee): The clear and present danger that our country faces is terrorism. I say flat out that unilateral use of force without first exhausting every diplomatic remedy and other remedies and making a case to the American people will be harmful to our war on terrorism.

INSKEEP: Most Democrats opposed this resolution. While House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt voiced his support, he acknowledged his party's divisions.

Representative RICHARD GEPHARDT (Democrat, Missouri; Minority Leader): I know for many of you this resolution is not what you want, and it's true for Democrats and some Republicans. And in some ways, it's true for me. But I believe as a whole the resolution incorporates the key notion that we want to give diplomacy the best possible opportunity to resolve this conflict, but we're prepared to take further steps.

INSKEEP: Debate continues in the Senate where skeptical Democrats are now declaring their support for the president. House Majority Leader Tom Daschle says he's not satisfied with the resolution that the Senate may soon pass, but it deserves his vote.

Senator TOM DASCHLE (Democrat, South Dakota; Majority Leader): For me the deciding factor is my belief that a united Congress will help the president unite the world, and by uniting the world we can increase the world's chances of succeeding in this effort and reduce both the risks and the costs that America may have to bear.

INSKEEP: But Daschle, who's a possible presidential candidate, added a few more phrases. `With this resolution,' Daschle said, `we are giving the president extraordinary authority. How he exercises that authority will determine how successful any action in Iraq might be.' Even as they declare support for the president, doubtful lawmakers are suggesting that the president will be held accountable for what comes next. Steve Inskeep, NPR News, the Capitol.

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