KWAME HOLMAN: The House of Representatives spent three full days on the question of granting the President Broad authority to use military force against Iraq.
REP. BARBARA CUBIN: Mr. Speaker, as I've traveled through Wyoming, my fellow citizens have made their feelings very clear on the threat posed by Saddam Hussein, the threat posed by his weapons of mass destruction, and the threat posed by his support of terrorism.
KWAME HOLMAN: The debate was efficient. Each member was offered a small block of time to speak.
SPOKESPERSON: I yield one minute to the gentleman from California.
KWAME HOLMAN: And the House twice stayed in session past midnight to accommodate everyone.
REP. TOM LANTOS: As our day has shown, none deny the danger posed by Saddam Hussein. We differ only in the means of addressing this mounting threat.
KWAME HOLMAN: Those opposed to the resolution were allowed to offer alternatives. South Carolina Democrat John Spratt proposed requiring the President to return to Congress to get authority to use force if the United Nations Security Council fails to act against Iraq.
REP. JOHN SPRATT: My amendment calls for a second vote on approval of use of force. But it ensures the President a fast track consideration.
KWAME HOLMAN: But all of the alternatives were defeated soundly during a series of votes taken today.
SPOKESMAN: The amendment is not agreed to without objects, the motion to reconsider is laid upon the table.
KWAME HOLMAN: Momentum behind the President's position clearly had built in recent weeks. House Republicans nearly were unanimous in their support. Majority Leader Dick Army once was a skeptic.
REP. DICK ARMEY: Is action against Saddam compliant with the character of our great nation? I struggled with this. It was a hurt el for me for a long time.
KWAME HOLMAN: Armey, however, was convinced to support the President. But it was the endorsement of Democratic Leader Dick Gephardt last week that freed wavering Democrats in the House to vote to give the President the authorization he sought.
REP. RICHARD GEPHARDT: I know for many of you this resolution is not what you want. And it's true for Democrats and some Republicans, and in some ways it's true for me. Many of my colleagues have had compelling arguments and important differences with this language. These differences do not diminish my respect or my trust or my colleagues as the true representatives of the people in this great nation. But I believe as a hole the resolution incorporates the key notion that we want to give diplomacy the best possible opportunity to resolve this conflict. But we're prepared to take further steps if necessary to protect our nation.
KWAME HOLMAN: When the final vote was taken in the House this afternoon, more than two-thirds of the members including almost all Republicans and 81 Democrats, approved the grant of Presidential authority to use force against Iraq. The Senate has spent six days in all on the Iraq issue. And this morning a strong majority of members voted to draw their debate to a close.
SPOKESPERSON: The yeas are 75, the nays are 25. The motion is agreed to.
KWAME HOLMAN: Like Gephardt, Connecticut Democrat Joseph Lieberman gave his early endorsement to the President's resolution. That may have swayed other Democrats, but not the small determined group led by Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin. Like John Spratt in the House, Levin wanted Congress to act only if the United Nations didn't. That set up a friendly spirited debate among the Democrats.
SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN: I wanted to ask my friend from Michigan, or my friend from Maryland, you're saying that pursuant, and because you say pursuant I assume it means only pursuant to a resolution of the U N Security Council can the President authorize the armed forces of the U.S. to destroy, remove or render harmless Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, nuclear weapons, material ballistic missiles, and related facilities.
SEN. PAUL SARBANES: The word only is not there. These are two separate sections. One provides an authority under a U.N. resolution, the other preserves the inherent right -- I want to say to my good friend from Connecticut, it is painful to me to see a former able and distinguished attorney general of the state of Connecticut twist and turn to try to do this what he's trying to do to the very well crafted amendment of the Senator from Michigan.
SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN: If the Senator --
SEN. PAUL SARBANES: It's painful! It's painful to me.
SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN: Let me relieve you of your pain.
SEN. PAUL SARBANES: Well, will you withdraw the use of the word only?
SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN: This is coming directly from my experience as an attorney general. If you are saying pursuant, how else.?
SEN. PAUL SARBANES: This is a grant of authority, it is not a limitation or a prohibition. The word "only" is not in there. The Senator from Connecticut sought to add it last night, it is not in there. It is not in there.
KWAME HOLMAN: Majority leader Tom Daschle sat out most of the debate on the Iraq issue. But today he announced he, too, with some reservation, had been persuaded to back the President's resolution.
SEN. TOM DASCHLE: The American people have serious questions about the course of action this resolution could set us on. Given the gravity of the issues involved, and the far-reaching consequences of this course, it is essential that their questions are answered. I support this resolution. And for the sake of the American people-- especially those who will be called to defend our nation-- we must continue to ask questions.
KWAME HOLMAN: Late this afternoon Daschle and other Senate leaders agreed members would cast the final and likely favorable vote on the President's use of force resolution late tonight or tomorrow.