Background: Iraq Consent
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KWAME HOLMAN: The leadership of the House and Senate made their first post vacation visit to the White House this morning. They were joined by the chairs and ranking members of the committees on defense, intelligence, and foreign affairs, committees with a particular interest in possible military action against Iraq. And at the meeting, President Bush seemed to put an end to the political and legal debate over what role the Congress would play in any decision he makes to deal with the regime of Saddam Hussein.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: My Administration will fully participate in any hearings that the Congress wishes to have on this subject, on the subject about how to make America a more secure country, as to how to best protect the American families in our country. At the appropriate time, this Administration will go to the Congress to seek approval for… necessary to deal with the threat.
KWAME HOLMAN: Following the meeting, Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott seemed pleased the debate over Congress’ role had been taken off the table.
SEN. TRENT LOTT: This was an important meeting that the President bring in the bipartisan leadership, not only elected leadership, but the leaders of the critical committees– intelligence, armed services, foreign affairs– have input from these members. And I believe that that’s the way we can get a coordinated strategy and a message not only for the American people but for the world.
KWAME HOLMAN: And this afternoon, White House Spokesman Ari Fleischer predicted the vote in Congress supporting action would come sooner rather than later.
ARI FLEISCHER: I think it’s fair to say that there will be a vote in the Congress before they leave for the elections.
KWAME HOLMAN: But Fleischer left open whether the President, after reporters left the cabinet room, had shared with members any new information on Iraq’s capabilities to launch weapons of mass destruction.
ARI FLEISCHER: Well, the President… the purpose of the meeting today, as the President made plain, was to inform them that he will seek Congressional support, if it comes to that point, at the appropriate time. That was the purpose of the meeting. The purpose of the meeting was not to share intelligence information.
KWAME HOLMAN: At the Capitol, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle stressed that without new information, Congressional approval for military action could be in doubt.
SEN. TOM DASCHLE: What I hope will happen over the course of the next several weeks is that the President will be more forthcoming in terms of the information that he believes warrants U.S. intervention in Iraq. What new information exists? What threat can be quantified? What has changed in recent months or years? What will be the reaction of our allies? How much will it cost? If we change regimes, who will be in the new regime, and has that been thought through? Those and many other questions I think are ones that we have to explore very carefully.
To my knowledge, at least as of this morning, there… the answers to those questions have not been made available to the members of the Congress. I would not want to assert that they’re not available, but I would say that I know of no member of Congress that has the answers to those questions. And I think it would be very hard for us to come to any conclusion on a resolution until those questions, and as I said, many other questions, are answered.
KWAME HOLMAN: Defense Secretary Rumsfeld may have provided some answers to those questions this afternoon. He arrived at the Capitol for a classified briefing for members on what the Administration knows about Iraq.