- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 22, 2003

Eleven House Democrats yesterday voted against a resolution supporting U.S. troops and President Bush's leadership as their commander in chief, saying they couldn't approve a war or a president they disagree with.
"I, for one, will not be forced to praise the president's reckless decision when what I want to do is praise the troops," said Rep. Jim McDermott, Washington Democrat, who voted "no."
Mr. McDermott was one of three Democratic lawmakers who traveled to Baghdad to meet with Iraqi leaders last fall. In a television interview during that trip, Mr. McDermott said Mr. Bush would "mislead the American public" to gain support for war.
The resolution finally passed at 3 a.m. yesterday, after Republican and Democratic leaders spent hours hashing out differences over Republicans' wording that praised the president, called Saddam Hussein in "material breach" of United Nations resolutions and defined action in Iraq as part of the war on terror.
The resolution passed 392-11, with another 22 House members 21 Democrats and one Republican voting "present."
"We salute every person taking risks to confront terrorism and tyranny to expand the frontiers of freedom. And we salute the president for showing the world the power of strong, moral leadership," said House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, Texas Republican and one of the chief authors of the resolution.
Republican aides said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, was involved from the beginning in writing the resolution with Republican leaders. But they said she found herself trapped between trying to accommodate Republicans and the strongly anti-war faction of her party.
One House Democratic leadership aide said Mrs. Pelosi did have to work to persuade anti-war Democrats not to object to bringing up the resolution, which would have postponed it for at least a day.
But on the other hand, the aide said, Mrs. Pelosi succeeded in broadening the resolution to include more than the one clause in the first draft that specifically supported the troops.
Mrs. Pelosi also persuaded Republicans to change support for the president to support for his role as commander in chief.
"I disagree with the policy that took us to this war. I dispute some of the arguments used in favor of this resolution, and I am disappointed in some of the provisions in this resolution," Mrs. Pelosi said on the floor. "But even those objections cannot overcome the pride and appreciation that I have in our troops. And the message I want them to hear from us tonight of our support for them."
A few Democrats proposed changing the resolution on the House floor to concentrate solely on the troops and drop references to Mr. Bush.
But Republicans blocked those attempts, with Rep. Duncan Hunter, California Republican and chairman of the Armed Services Committee, saying he wondered what the troops in battle would think of Democrats' objections.
"If they're watching this procedure, they're probably wondering what in the heck those guys are doing," he said.
Some Democrats said they had no choice but to vote against the resolution.
Eight of the 11 members who voted no are part of the Congressional Black Caucus, while another 15 of those who voted present were CBC members.
"In spite of our policy differences, I do support our young men and women in uniform. What I cannot support, though, is this resolution that endorses war against Iraq," said Rep. Barbara Lee, California Democrat and member of the CBC.
The Senate was able to act more quickly, and with more unanimity, Thursday afternoon.
On a 99-0 vote, the Senate passed its own resolution. It lacked most of the clauses Democrats objected to in the House, but still termed the war "lawful and fully authorized by the Congress."
The Senate resolution closely tracked the one both chambers passed in 1991 at the beginning of the first Persian Gulf war. That resolution was approved 98-0 in the Senate, and 399-6 in the House. Five House Democrats and one independent voted against the resolution, while another six Democrats voted present.

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