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Analysis: New Senate Version of Resolution Supporting War Against Iraq

Morning Edition: September 27, 2002

Iraq Resolution


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

Senate Republicans praised a new version of a resolution last night that supports a war against Iraq. They believe it improves an earlier draft that would have given the president much broader authority to attack targets outside Iraq. But Senate Democrats, who hold a one-seat majority, said more changes are needed if the policy is to win broad congressional support. NPR's David Welna reports from the Capitol.

DAVID WELNA reporting:

It was the office of White House general counsel Alberto Gonzales that sent the latest version of an Iraq resolution to congressional leaders yesterday, and Senate Minority Whip Don Nickles says the White House stands squarely behind the revised document.

Senator DON NICKLES (Republican, Minority Whip): They've had their hands and fingerprints on it. It's pretty much their resolution, changed a little bit from what they sent down to the Hill a few days ago, but not much.

WELNA: The revised resolution does differ from the original one in one significant way. It authorizes the use of force only against Iraq. No longer does the document allow such use of force to, quote, "restore international peace and security in the region," unquote, wording that both Democrats and Republicans had found too broad. And the revised resolution also adds language calling on the president to notify congressional leaders that relying on diplomacy won't protect the US against the threat posed by Iraq or that diplomacy is unlikely to lead to the enforcement of UN Security Council resolutions on Iraq.

The resolution also requires the president to report to Congress on the Iraq situation at least once every 90 days. John Warner, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the document had been strengthened.

Senator JOHN WARNER (Republican, Armed Services Committee): If this type of resolution is adopted by the Congress, there'll be no daylight between what the Congress stands for and what the president of the United States has as his objectives.

WELNA: Overall, Republicans seem satisfied with the revised resolution, but Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle was far more wary of it. He said his fellow Democrats wanted to know more specifically what the resolution would empower the White House to do, and he made it clear that by no means does he see this resolution as a finished product, ready for an up or down vote on the Senate floor.

Senator TOM DASCHLE (Democrat, Majority Leader): I'm going to do as much as possible to draft a resolution that can be supported by the broadest coalition of senators. We have, in my view, come some distance; we've got a long way to go before that can be achieved.

WELNA: Still, Daschle promised to take the resolution to the Senate floor sometime next week. Senator Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, says he's resigned to a vote on the resolution before Congress adjourns next month, but like many other Democrats, he thinks the White House still takes too much of a go-it-alone approach in the revised resolution.

Senator DICK DURBIN (Democrat, Illinois): They refuse to really consider the United Nations' role in this or building of coalition behind any American effort in Iraq. I think that is very unfortunate because I think a coalition makes us stronger, gives us a better chance of success.

WELNA: Democrats are divided in both the Senate and the House over Iraq. Opponents of the president's policy have become noticeably more outspoken in Congress, after Al Gore took a swipe at that policy on Monday, and Daschle on Wednesday demanded the president apologize for saying the Senate is not interested in American security. But other Democrats are solidly behind the president, including South Dakota Senator Tim Johnson, who's locked in a fierce re-election battle and whose son is in a military unit that might well be sent to Iraq.

Senator TIM JOHNSON (Democrat, South Dakota): I'm willing to cast this vote, one of the most important votes of my career and certainly one of the most important votes I could cast as a father, because I recognize the threat that Saddam Hussein represents to world peace.

WELNA: Republicans say they're confident a resolution authorizing war on Iraq will win wide support in the GOP-controlled House. Senate Republican Leader Trent Lott thinks no further tinkering is needed for the resolution to prevail in the Senate as well.

Senator TRENT LOTT (Republican, Mississippi): I believe we will have that support, but I think, you know, any further erosion, I think, is going to be a problem.

WELNA: But Senate Democrats are already talking of adding amendments to the resolution, once it's brought to the floor next week, increasing the uncertainty about when it might come to a final vote. David Welna, NPR News, the Capitol.

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