KWAME HOLMAN: A majority of members, who spoke on the House floor today, gave the President high marks for the case he laid out last night against Saddam Hussein. Texas Republican Pete Sessions:
REP. PETE SESSIONS: I believe this President is well balanced, is articulate and last night spoke with great favor towards a nation of the United States that wants peace not war.
KWAME HOLMAN: California Democrat Brad Sherman:
REP. BRAD SHERMAN: But if war becomes necessary at least the fact that we struggled to avoid it will minimize foreign opposition. Unfortunately, the resolution is far more vague than the President's speech.
KWAME HOLMAN: At noon, Speaker Dennis Hastert opened 17 hours of formal debate on the use of force resolution, with a vote coming perhaps late tomorrow night.
REP. DENNIS HASTERT: We will do in this place what the butcher of Baghdad and the remnants of al-Qaida hiding in bombed-out caves in far-flung places around the world hate the most: We will exercise democracy, and we will show the world how free men and women behave. I rise in support of this resolution, and I urge all of my colleagues to support it.
KWAME HOLMAN: But while there is almost universal agreement among members that Saddam Hussein is a threat, opinions differ over how much authority the President should be granted to deal with that threat. California Democrat Barbara Lee.
REP. BARBARA LEE: Mr. Speaker, I rise today in opposition to this resolution authorizing a unilateral first strike against Iraq. Such an action could destabilize the Middle East and set an international precedent that could come back to haunt us all. President Bush's doctrine of preemption violates international law, it violates the United Nations charter and our own long-term security interests. It forecloses alternatives to war before we have even tried to pursue them.
KWAME HOLMAN: Indiana Republican Dan Burton:
REP. DAN BURTON: Do we preempt them or do we react? Do we react after the fact, after we lose 10 or 20 or 50 or 100,000 people? Our responsibility in this chamber and in this government is to protect American citizens, to protect our democracy, our freedoms and our rights. And if we don't take the right actions now, we will suffer the consequences later.
KWAME HOLMAN: Pennsylvania Democrat Joseph Hoeffel:
REP. JOSEPH HOEFFEL: I oppose the initial resolution the President sent to the Congress. It gave credence to the fear that we would as a first step act in a pre-emptive unilateral military strike, which I would not support and do not support in the absence of an imminent threat to the United States. Since then, the House and the Administration in a bipartisan manner have negotiated a compromise resolution that addresses many of those issues. I support the resolution now. It strikes a good balance between urging a multi-lateral approach and preserving America's right to defend our citizens.
KWAME HOLMAN: New York Republican Amo Houghton:
REP. AMO HOUGHTON: I think we have the cart before the horse. I think the U.N. ought to do its will first. Frankly, I feel that a right decision at the wrong time is a wrong decision. And somehow we must finish our war on terrorism before we take on another fight. I yield the balance of my time.
KWAME HOLMAN: On the opposite side of the capitol, the senate continued its debate on the Iraq resolution. Republicans Warner and McCain and Democrats Lieberman and Bayh are leading a bipartisan effort to give the President the authorization he has asked for.
SEN. JOHN WARNER: The President last night said very clearly that-- and I'd like to read it-- approving this resolution does not mean that military action is imminent or unavoidable. The resolution will tell the United Nations and all nations that America speaks with one voice and is determined to make the demands of the civilized world mean something.
SEN. EVAN BAYH: The President last night indicated that he will make every effort to convince the United Nations and our allies of the justice of our cause.
SEN. JOHN McCAIN: Did the senator have a chance to see the President's address last night to the nation?
SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN: I did.
SEN. JOHN McCAIN: Was it clear to the President or to the senator that the President assured the American people that every option is being explored before a military option is exercised?
SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN: I thank the Senator from Arizona for his question, Madam President, and of course I do agree with him that the President of the United States has made quite clear that he is asking us for this authority, for us to dispatch our responsibility under the Constitution, to give him the power to make war if necessary but he hopes and clearly we hope that that will not be necessary.
KWAME HOLMAN: But Minnesota's Paul Wellstone is among a small group of senate democrats firmly opposed to the President's use of force resolution.
SEN. PAUL WELLSTONE: I didn't have a chance to hear the President speak last night but I read the transcript. I think it's important that he focus on bringing our allies with us and international support. And there was more of a focus on that -- and more of a focus on the military option as being the last option. And I think people wanted to hear that in Minnesota and in the country. The problem is that the actual resolution that we have before us goes in a different direction. And what this resolution does is it gives the President, the Administration, the authority for go it alone unilateral military strike, could be ground war. Mr. President, I think this would be a mistake.
KWAME HOLMAN: Both chambers are expected to continue the Iraq debate into the evening, with the house perhaps going through the night.