- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 20, 2003

Congressional Republicans are crafting as broad a war resolution as possible to win Democratic backing and show unanimity in support of U.S. troops.
Soon after the first F-117A stealth fighters and cruise missiles hit a target near Baghdad last night, that unity began to show. Republicans and Democrats, including some who had vocally opposed President Bush's Iraq policy, offered prayers for the troops and support for Mr. Bush.
"I am proud of our president, our troops, and our allies," said House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, Illinois Republican.
"Whether we support the attack or have advocated for continued diplomacy, we, as a country, must unite behind our president and our troops," said House Democratic Caucus Chairman Robert Menendez, New Jersey Democrat.
For his part, Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, praised the troops: "We are awed by their sacrifice and their bravery, and we want them and their families to know that they have the profound respect and gratitude of every American."
House and Senate Republicans still are working on the final wording of resolutions that support the troops overseas, but they do not intend to broach contentious objectives, such as ousting Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
"We're trying to write a bipartisan resolution," House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, Texas Republican, told reporters yesterday.
Sen. John W. Warner, Virginia Republican, who as chairman of the Armed Services Committee was writing the Senate's version, said the resolution would be "pretty much straightforward" and resemble the one Congress overwhelmingly passed in 1991 at the beginning of the Persian Gulf war.
But Democrats who have been critical of Mr. Bush's diplomacy could find it difficult to vote for language in the 1991 resolution specifically supporting the "leadership of the president as commander-in-chief."
Both chambers plan to stop regular floor action as early as today to vote on the resolution.
"I suspect we'll have as broad a resolution as possible to get the kind of support to show unanimity," said Senate Republican Conference Committee Chairman Rick Santorum, Pennsylvania Republican.
Democrats say they hope that is the case.
"I think there's a real desire to work together in a bipartisan way to come up with a strong statement, and that effort is under way," said Mr. Daschle, who said he expects to be able to support the final resolution.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, said she also hopes to be able to vote for the resolution.
"I certainly hope it would not be anything but something which would get universal bipartisan support," she said. "That would be a shame if they brought something to the floor that would be divisive at this very, very serious time."
The 1991 resolution, in addition to supporting the commander in chief, also notes the president went to war "with the authorization of Congress … in an effort to force Iraqi Armed Forces from occupied Kuwait."
The resolution then praised the troops' excellence, patriotism and bravery.
It passed 98-0 in the Senate, and 399-6 in the House. Five Democrats and one independent voted against the resolution, while another six Democrats voted "present."
This time, even some Republicans who want to engage in a broad discussion of the justification for war said the resolution should be strictly about the troops.
"While I think this issue deserves a good debate, I don't want us to get into anything that could be termed divisive," one senator said.
Some Democrats have said they will curtail their criticism of the administration to present a united front for the troops. But others have continued to critique what they see as the administration's failures.
Sen. Robert C. Byrd, West Virginia Democrat, yesterday called military action in Iraq "the wrong war" and criticized the president's diplomacy.
"Today, I weep for my country," he said. "I have watched the events of recent months with a heavy, heavy heart. No more is the image of America one of strong yet benevolent peacekeeper. The image of America has changed."
Those comments come on the heels of Mr. Daschle's criticism of the president this week that his diplomatic failures have "forced" the nation into war.
Still, he and Mrs. Pelosi, who yesterday said she has been "second place to none in this Congress of the United States in opposition to the war," both reiterated their strong support for the troops.
Mr. Daschle also reminded reporters that he was a veteran. He served in the Air Force from 1969 to 1972.
But Mr. DeLay said Democrats can't have it both ways.
"I think it's hypocritical to say on the one hand that you support the troops while on the other hand you say the reason they are risking their lives is wrong," he said. "I think it undermines the effort and the unity this country ought to be showing right now."

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