- The Washington Times - Friday, October 11, 2002

The House yesterday overwhelmingly approved President Bush's request for the authority to use military force against Iraq, and the Senate headed for a similarly decisive vote over dwindling Democratic resistance.
"The days of Iraq acting as an outlaw state are coming to an end," said Mr. Bush shortly after calling to thank House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, Illinois Republican, and House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt, Missouri Democrat. "There are no other options for the Iraqi regime. There can be no negotiations."
The House vote was 296-133, with 215 Republicans joining 81 Democrats in favor of authorizing force to rid Iraq of weapons of mass destruction.
A majority of Democrats 126 voted no despite Mr. Gephardt's sponsorship of the resolution. Six Republicans and the House's lone independent also voted no.
With midterm elections looming and a forceful lobbying campaign by the White House, the president's measure gained 46 more votes in the House than the 1991 resolution that authorized his father, President George Bush, to wage war against Iraq.
"Forty-six more votes than we had in Desert Storm," said Mr. Hastert with satisfaction. "It sends a strong bipartisan signal."
The Democrat-led Senate was ready to give Mr. Bush an even stronger vote, yesterday rejecting 75-25 a bid by opponents to slow down final action. Senators also rejected 75-24 a proposal by Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, Michigan Democrat, to require U.N. action before any use of U.S. military forces.
Final Senate passage was expected late last night or early today.
The resolution gives Mr. Bush broad options to defend the United States against the "continuing threat" from the regime of Saddam Hussein. It encourages the administration to press for diplomatic solutions, and requires the president to report to Congress every 60 days once action is taken.
The administration is seeking tough new weapons inspections through the United Nations, but Mr. Bush wants congressional authority to act independently if necessary.
After weeks of resistance, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, yesterday announced his support for the White House resolution.
"I believe it is important for America to speak with one voice," Mr. Daschle said. "It is neither a Democratic resolution nor a Republican resolution. It is now a statement of American resolve and values."
Speaking at the White House, Mr. Bush said the House vote sends a clear message to the world and to the U.N. Security Council.
"The gathering threat of Iraq must be confronted fully and finally," Mr. Bush said. He said of Saddam, "You must disarm and comply with all existing U.N. resolutions, or [you] will be forced to comply."
Supporters of the White House measure said Saddam poses a clear and present danger to the United States with the development of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, which he could deliver to terrorists. A repeat of September 11 was on the minds of many lawmakers.
"Saddam Hussein is seeking the means to murder millions in a single moment, and he is consumed with hatred for America," said House Majority Whip Tom DeLay, Texas Republican. "Our only responsible option is to confront this threat before more Americans die."
House Majority Leader Dick Armey, Texas Republican, who was making one of his final appearances on the floor, choked back tears as he spoke of putting the nation's sons and daughters in harm's way.
"Mr. President, we trust to you the best we have to give," Mr. Armey said. "Use them well, so they can come home and say to our grandchildren, 'Sleep safely, my baby.'"
The vote proved more divisive for House Democrats. Mr. Gephardt, criticized by many in his party for striking a deal with the White House, said he made a mistake in voting against the 1991 Persian Gulf war resolution.
"I believe we must confront the threat posed by the current Iraqi regime directly," Mr. Gephardt said.
But his top lieutenant, Minority Whip Nancy Pelosi of California, voted against the measure. Mrs. Pelosi said an attack against Iraq would interfere with America's war against terrorism and depress financial markets.
"Let us show our greatness," she said. "Vote no."
Mr. Bush praised the House for three days of "civil" debate. But occasionally the rhetoric became harsh.
Rep. Pete Stark, California Democrat, known for his outbursts, chastised his colleagues for authorizing a war.
"Some of you old men who have never been in service and never worn a uniform, you're sentencing thousands of Americans to sure death," said Mr. Stark, an Air Force veteran. "You know that the president wants blood. He wants to go to war. And so you're giving an inexperienced, desperate young man in the White House the execution lever to kill thousands of Americans."
Rep. Steve Chabot, Ohio Republican, said Congress and the administration are trying to save lives by disarming Iraq.
"If we don't stop Saddam Hussein, an awful lot more American lives and lives around the world will be lost," Mr. Chabot said.
Among the remaining outspoken opponents in the Senate were Democrats Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts and Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia.
Mr. Kennedy conceded that the Senate would easily vote "to give the president the benefit of the doubt." But he criticized the White House for politicizing the issue.
"You're talking about the election being three weeks off," Mr. Kennedy said.


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