- The Washington Times - Friday, March 21, 2003

The Senate easily passed a resolution yesterday supporting U.S. troops and President Bush as commander in chief, while the House was headed toward passage early this morning after some Democrats dropped their objection to calling the U.S. military campaign in Iraq part of the war on terrorism.

The Senate resolution declares the war "lawful and fully authorized by the Congress" and lists the U.N. Security Council resolutions that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has not complied with. It also "commends and supports the efforts and leadership of the president, as commander in chief, in the conflict against Iraq."

It passed 99-0 less than 24 hours after the U.S. military's first strike on Iraq. Sen. Zell Miller, Georgia Democrat and a steadfast supporter of the president's policy on Iraq, missed the vote. His office said he was with a family member who was having surgery.

In October, Congress voted to authorize the president to use force in Iraq by a vote of 77-23 in the Senate and 296-133 in the House. Yesterday's resolutions were supposed to be just a show of unity for the troops.

The House vote came too late for this edition, but both sides predicted easy passage after overcoming a daylong block.

Some Democrats had balked at Republican-backed language that declared Saddam in material breach of U.N. resolutions and that called the conflict in Iraq "part of the ongoing Global War on Terrorism."

Rep. Lloyd Doggett, Texas Democrat, wanted to adopt the same resolution as the Senate instead, or to adopt only the part commending the troops.

And Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich, Ohio Democrat and presidential candidate, asked for a separate resolution that only supported the troops and not the war itself.

He criticized Republicans' version, saying, "I think it lets politics get beyond the water's edge."

But Rep. Duncan Hunter, California Republican and chairman of the Armed Services Committee, wondered what the troops in battle would make of the spectacle.

"If they're watching this procedure, they're probably wondering what in the heck those guys are doing," he said.

Earlier in the day, Republicans agreed to change praise for the president to praise for him as "commander in chief."

In general, though, recent harsh criticism of the president from Democratic leaders gave way, as they proclaimed that they are behind Mr. Bush's effort.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, who described herself Wednesday as "second place to none" in Congress in opposing going to war, said that is all in the past.

"As commander in chief, President Bush has made that decision. As Americans, we stand behind our men and women in uniform and their commander, our commander in chief," she said. "When we go into battle despite our differences on policy when we go into battle, it will be one team, one fight."

The issue was brought home to the House when Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, Illinois Republican, read a letter requesting a leave of absence for Rep. Steve Buyer, Indiana Republican, who as an Army reservist has been called to active duty.

On the Senate side, some Democrats swallowed objections to parts of the resolution to vote for it.

"I do not agree with every word of this resolution," said Sen. Robert C. Byrd, West Virginia Democrat. "I have strong reservations about the assertion that the Congress has 'fully authorized' this war against Iraq."

Still, Mr. Byrd, the senior Democrat in the Senate, said he has full faith in the armed forces.

"But I have no question about the ability of our military to deliver a crushing blow to whatever army might stand in their way," he said.

The Senate resolution also commemorates troops who lost their lives in 1991 and those missing, including Navy Capt. Scott Speicher, who was shot down and originally presumed killed but since listed as presumed captured.

Even though many members of Congress, including the majority leaders in both the House and Senate, have said that the war's objective is ousting Saddam, the resolution does not address that, nor other objectives, such as his disarmament.

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