- The Washington Times - Friday, March 8, 2002

A simple one-page resolution expressing the Senate's support for U.S. military forces in Afghanistan was on hold yesterday while Democrats wrestled with its language.
"The Senate stands united with the president in the ongoing effort to destroy Al Qaeda," states a draft of the resolution that Democrats were seeking to change.
"We want to make sure they know that they're in our thoughts and that we strongly support their efforts," said Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, in reference to U.S. troops in combat. "But there are a lot of different ways to express it."
The resolution was first proposed by Mr. Daschle's office Monday night, after nine U.S. soldiers were killed in Afghanistan. The South Dakota Democrat was denounced last week for criticizing the direction of the war and predicting that failure to find Osama bin Laden would result in "failure" in the war.
Mr. Daschle said he believes it is important to send a message to the troops "in times of setback like this."
The office of Minority Leader Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican, sent back the draft of the non-binding resolution to Democrats on Tuesday with minor revisions.
As of yesterday, Democrats were still haggling over the precise wording.
"People are expressing ways of offering language that they think is more appropriate," Mr. Daschle said. "So we're still in the writing stages."
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat, was said to be interested in toning down the resolution. Mr. Leahy acknowledged in a brief interview that he was "a little bit" involved in the rewrite but would not discuss it further.
"This is too serious a matter," he said.
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, Michigan Democrat, said his staff was "deeply involved in it."
The resolution merely offers the "sense of the Senate" and carries no legal weight.
"I think that Senator Lott could write it," Mr. Daschle said before noon yesterday. "I could write it. Senator Leahy certainly could write it. Senator [Robert C.] Byrd could write it. We all could take a shot at writing. But we're going to agree on one document, and so far, there hasn't been" agreement on one.
The draft states that the Senate "remains steadfastly determined to bring to justice the perpetrators of the September 11 attacks against America." It expresses the nation's gratitude to the armed forces and their families "who have borne the burden of separation from their loved ones."
Asked why it had taken lawmakers three days to debate a straightforward statement of support for U.S. troops in combat, Mr. Lott said even seemingly simple acts take time in the Senate.
"It takes a couple of days to do a resolution under almost all circumstances," Mr. Lott said. "You've got to agree on the language. You're dealing with words that matter."
Mr. Lott said he added language to the resolution expressing lawmakers' "commitment to provide the material and what we need for our men and women to do their job in the defense of our country and in the war on terrorism."
Democrats would not say whether they objected to that; Congress provides money for the war through legally binding appropriations.
Mr. Lott said Republicans greeted Mr. Daschle's proposal on Tuesday with "uproarious laughter" at their weekly luncheon because of the majority leader's criticism of the war effort just days earlier.
"There was some amazement [among Republicans] that we were now on a united, positive footing," Mr. Lott said.
Congressional Democrats have struggled this election year to set themselves apart from the White House while not criticizing the administration's war effort too harshly.
Rep. Bob Barr, Georgia Republican, sent a letter to colleagues this week asking them for "the united support of Congress" for the war against terrorism.
"Countries that continue to directly threaten our nation, such as Iraq, represent a clear and present danger to our way of life, and they must be dealt with," Mr. Barr said. "The president not only deserves, but our country requires, the united support of Congress for this effort. I call on all of my colleagues to set aside personal political ambitions or the ambitions of their political parties, and stand vocally behind the president, as our commander in chief, in the war on terrorism."


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