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Profile: House And Senate Continue Debating A Bush Administration-Backed Resolution On Iraq

Morning Edition: October 8, 2002

Senate and House Debate Iraq Resolution

BOB EDWARDS, host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Bob Edwards.

In a major address on Iraq last night in Cincinnati, President Bush said Congress was nearing a historic vote on a resolution authorizing the use of force against Saddam Hussein.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: Approving this resolution does not mean that military action is imminent or unavoidable. The resolution will tell the United Nations and all nations that America speaks with one voice and it is determined to make the demands of the civilized world mean something.

EDWARDS: Today the House of Representatives begins debating a Bush administration-backed resolution on Iraq, while the Senate continues a similar debate it began Friday. Leaders from both chambers plan final votes this week. NPR's David Welna reports from the Capitol.

DAVID WELNA reporting:

President Bush has had strong backing for his Iraq policy from several lawmakers who'd also like to replace him in the White House in two years. But yesterday two of those presidential wanna-bes seemed to distance themselves from the policy. Democrat Joe Lieberman, who's the chief Senate sponsor of the White House-backed Iraq resolution, warned after the president spoke last night that the Iraqi people must not be left to fend for themselves in the aftermath of an invasion. And Senate Democrat John Edwards of North Carolina chided the administration for seeming, in his words, `determined to act alone for the sake of acting alone.'

Senator JOHN EDWARDS (Democrat, North Carolina): Instead of demonstrating purpose without arrogance, as the president promised in his inaugural address, the administration's policy projects exactly the opposite, arrogance without purpose.

WELNA: Congressional Republicans, meanwhile, rallied behind the president. On the eve of the House debate on Iraq, Majority Leader Dick Armey declared that administration briefings had cleared away doubts he publicly expressed in August about going after Saddam Hussein.

Representative DICK ARMEY (Majority Leader): The snake's out of his hole. The extent to which he has and is developing weapons of mass destruction and his access to deliver them to the United States and to American interests is far greater than I thought in August.

WELNA: Armey said because Iraq has attacked US planes in the no-fly zone, he does not consider military action pre-emptive. But on the floor of the Senate yesterday, Massachusetts Democrat Ted Kennedy insisted the US was pursuing a first strike policy against Iraq.

Senator TED KENNEDY (Democrat, Massachusetts): Might does not make right. America cannot write its own rules for the modern world. To attempt to do so would be unilateralism run amok. It would antagonize our closest allies, whose support we need to fight terrorism.

WELNA: The debate in the Senate is largely shaping up as a duel between two groups. One includes those like Kennedy, who are wary of approving the use of force before diplomatic efforts are exhausted. They tend to support a resolution to that effect being offered by Michigan Democrat Carl Levin. The other camp, which is clearly a majority, favors the White House resolution, giving the president authority to decide on going to war with Iraq. Arizona Republican Jon Kyl argued that diplomacy only buys time for Saddam Hussein.

Senator JON KYL (Arizona, Republican): It is time to end this whole charade. Knowing that diplomacy will continue to fail, we have an obligation to act and not allow diplomacy to be used as a weapon by a brutal dictator.

WELNA: It now appears likely that a third resolution limiting the goal of military action to the disarming of weapons of mass destruction will no longer be offered, due to dwindling support. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle called yesterday for a final vote on an Iraq resolution for Thursday, the same day the House is expected to take similar action. David Welna, NPR News, the Capitol.

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