- The Washington Times - Friday, October 4, 2002

A House panel yesterday gave strong bipartisan approval to a resolution authorizing President Bush to use military force against Iraq, as the Senate opened debate on amendments that the White House says would weaken the measure.

The House International Relations Committee voted 31-11 to approve the bill, which would allow Mr. Bush to use force to dismantle Iraq's weapons programs and to topple Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. The vote set the stage for approval by the full House next week.

"The world is watching us," said Chairman Henry J. Hyde, Illinois Republican. "Saddam is watching us. They are looking for signs of indecision in our resolve, searching for the fatal sign of weakness that will come from binding ourselves to act only in concert with others."

Said Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, California Republican, "Saddam Hussein has a blood grudge against us. Saddam Hussein has got to go."

Nine Democrats opposed the bill, along with two Republicans: Reps. Jim Leach of Iowa and Ron Paul of Texas.

The Senate also took up the issue, with Sen. Robert C. Byrd, West Virginia Democrat, the lone vote against debating the resolution.

"We are rushing into war without fully discussing why," Mr. Byrd said. "This is no way to embark on war."

Democrats conceded they would probably approve the authority Mr. Bush seeks by next week. But Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, said the Senate will consider two alternatives, which the White House opposes because of their deference to the United Nations.

Mr. Daschle said he favors the proposal of Sens. Joseph R. Biden Jr., Delaware Democrat, and Richard G. Lugar, Indiana Republican, because it would authorize the use of force "only after we've exhausted" alternatives through the United Nations.

It would also allow force only to crack down on Iraqi weapons programs. President Bush has criticized that approach as tying his hands.

Mr. Daschle said the House version that is backed by the Bush administration is an improvement over the original draft, but refused to say whether he would support it.

The Biden-Lugar plan was offered as an amendment in the House hearing, but it was defeated by a vote of 16-26. Five Democrats joined all but two Republicans in opposing it.

Mr. Hyde said the proposal relies too much on action by the United Nations "rather than having us as masters of our own destiny." And Rep. Tom Lantos, California Democrat, said the Biden-Lugar measure ignores Iraq's sponsorship of terrorism.

Mr. Daschle said the Senate also will consider an amendment by Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, Michigan Democrat, that would require the president to obtain U.N. approval before committing U.S. forces.

Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican, said the Senate is getting bogged down with alternatives, as if lawmakers were in "some sort of law-school writing contest."

"We could have a draft a week till the cows come home," Mr. Lott said. "But in the end, the president of the United States is going to be granted the authority that he needs to deal with this threat of weapons of mass destruction, the danger to the American people and the world. We're going to do that and we're going to do it in a bipartisan way."

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