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Analysis: House Of Representatives Gives President Bipartisan Support On Compromise Iraq Resolution

Morning Edition: October 3, 2002

Capitol Hill Support for Iraq Resolution


No matter what the United Nations does next, Congress is moving closer to giving President Bush the power to go to war. House Speaker Dennis Hastert spoke yesterday as lawmakers gathered to offer support to the president.

Representative DENNIS HASTERT (Republican, Illinois): 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.

EDWARDS: Several key Democrats have joined Republicans in supporting the latest proposal to allow military action. NPR's Steve Inskeep reports from the Capitol.

Unidentified Man: The committee will come to order.

STEVE INSKEEP reporting:

Lawmakers have just begun discussing the details of a war resolution.

Representative HENRY HYDE (Republican, Illinois): Presume to notice, I now call up House Joint Resolution 114, authorization for the use of military force against Iraq.

INSKEEP: But many of the key decisions were made shortly before Congressman Henry Hyde brought his International Relations Committee to order yesterday. President Bush agreed with House leaders from both parties on a resolution authorizing the use of force. A prominent Democratic senator, Joe Lieberman, promised his support.

Senator JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (Democrat, Connecticut): Every additional day that Saddam Hussein is in power in Iraq is an additional day of danger for the Iraqi people, for his neighbors in the region, particularly for the people and military of the United States of America and, indeed, for the people of the world.

INSKEEP: Democrats say the president did make some concessions in the resolution they now support. Under the plan, the president can only make war against Iraq. An earlier proposal might have allowed attacks elsewhere. And if he goes to war, the president would have to certify in writing that the US can keep up the war against the al-Qaeda network at the same time that it strikes Iraq. The president is encouraged to work with the United Nations, but once the president decides that diplomacy is not working, he would have the authority to use military force. Lawmakers who support the plan stood behind the president as he spoke in the White House Rose Garden yesterday.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: Saddam must disarm, period. If, however, he chooses to do otherwise, if he persists in his defiance, the use of force may become unavoidable. Course of action may bring many sacrifices, yet delay in decision and in action could lead to a massive and sudden horror.

INSKEEP: In the Senate, a few leading Democrats still hope to limit the power they will give the president. Majority Leader Tom Daschle says he wants more careful consideration of what happens in Iraq after Saddam Hussein. The House now appears likely to pass the president's plan, though yesterday a respected Republican quietly registered his dissent.

Representative JIM LEACH (Republican, Iowa): As all members know, this resolution involves a difficult set of decisions that neither the Congress nor the executive can duck, and anyone who's not conflicted in their judgments isn't thinking seriously.

INSKEEP: Representative Jim Leach of Iowa sat at the table last evening as the International Relations Committee began discussing the war resolution. Leach said it's the right idea to replace Saddam Hussein but that it's the wrong moment to go to war, as he put it, `against Iraq and its people.' And Leach suggested that Saddam Hussein under attack might launch chemical or biological weapons at Israel.

Rep. LEACH: When a cornered tyrant is confronted with a use-or-lose option with weapons of mass destruction, as isolated in the Arab world unless he launches a jihad against Israel, it is not hard to imagine what he will choose. Israel has never faced a greater challenge to its survival.

INSKEEP: Congressman Leach said that no matter how powerful the United States becomes, it should use its power with restraint.

Although President Bush is gaining support, House Democratic Leader Dick Gephardt says lawmakers still have considerable debating to do in the coming days.

Representative RICHARD GEPHARDT (Democrat, Missouri): Part of the majesty of our Democratic achievement of a Democratic governance is that on issues of war and peace, life and death, we have entrusted those decisions not just to the president but to the Congress as a co-equal branch of this government. We now take that solemn obligation.

INSKEEP: Yesterday, Gephardt gave his support to the president, and under the plan he favors, this would be the last time that senators and representatives would face a major decision about Iraq. The resolution says that if President Bush decides to start a war, he is not necessarily required to notify Congress until shortly after hostilities begin. Steve Inskeep, NPR News, Washington.

EDWARDS: The time is 19 minutes past the hour.

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