Congress Gives President Full Authority to Use Force in Iraq
The Democratic-led Senate approved the Iraq resolution in a 77-23 vote after a week of spirited and sometimes contentious floor debate. Since the measure was approved without any changes from Senate members, the joint resolution will now proceed directly to the White House for President Bush’s signature.
“I commend members of the Senate for the strong bipartisan vote authorizing the use of force, if necessary,” the president said in a statement issued after the Senate vote. “The Senate, like the House, conducted this important debate and vote in the finest traditions of our democracy.”
The bipartisan resolution gives the president most of the broad authority he asked for in confronting Saddam Hussein and his potential arsenal of weapons of mass destruction, including the authorization to act alone if necessary. The measure encourages the White House to first utilize all diplomatic means possible and requires reports to Congress every 60 days should military action begin.
Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), the final member of the Senate leadership to come out in favor of the resolution, announced support for the White House plan Thursday, telling colleagues, “I believe it is important for America to speak with one voice at this critical moment.”
Daschle said on the Senate floor that the language of the new resolution was much improved over the president’s original proposal and was now “a statement of American resolve and values.”
But Sen. Robert Byrd, (D-W.Va.), one of the most outspoken Democratic opponents of the resolution in the Senate, accused Congress of “handing the president unchecked authority.”
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) praised the measure, saying Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein’s “defiance, if not ended, is a threat to every nation that claims membership in the civilized world by virtue of its respect for law and fundamental human values.”
The Republican-led House passed the resolution 296-133 Thursday, after a final move by a group of Democrats to add a second congressional vote before the actual deployment of troops was rejected. An amendment brought by Democratic opponents in the Senate that would have further delayed a floor vote on the final resolution was similarly voted down Thursday.
The newly passed resolution comes as the White House continues to push the United Nations Security Council to approve a tough new U.S.- and British-backed resolution ordering Iraq to give up any biological, chemical or nuclear weapons or face military consequences. U.N. weapons inspectors have delayed their return to Baghdad until the Security Council votes on the new resolution.
“The Congress has spoken clearly to the international community and the United Nations Security Council,” the president commented in his statement. “Saddam Hussein and his outlaw regime pose a grave threat to the region, the world, and the United States. Inaction is not an option, disarmament is a must.”