House Passes Resolution Authorizing Use of Force in Iraq

President Bush praised the Republican-led House after the vote saying, “the days of Iraq acting as an outlaw state are coming to an end,” and urged the Senate to act on a final vote soon.

“The House of Representatives has spoken clearly to the world and to the United Nations Security Council,” the president said. “The gathering threat of Iraq must be confronted fully and finally.”

The 296-133 vote revealed a solid base of support for the White House plan but also reflected the dissatisfaction of Democrats, 126 of whom voted against the resolution, despite the fact that House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt (D- Mo.) was one of its authors.

“Mr. President we are about to give you a great trust,” Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas) said of the vote.

The bipartisan House resolution gives the president most of the broad authorities he asked for in confronting Iraq, although it does encourage him to first utilize all diplomatic means possible and report to Congress every 60 days should military action begin.

Earlier Thursday, the House rejected a final challenge to the Iraq resolution, a proposal brought by a group of Democrats that would have required a second vote from Congress before deploying American troops to Iraq if U.N. measures are ineffective in compelling Saddam to disarm.

Rep. John Spratt (D-S.C.) said that without an international diplomatic approach, “this will be the United States versus Iraq and in some quarters the U.S. versus the Arab and the Muslim world.”

The Senate now stands poised for a similar vote. On Thursday, that chamber defeated an amendment brought by Democratic opponents that would have further delayed a floor vote on the final resolution.

Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D- S.D.), the final holdout in the Senate leadership against the proposed resolution, shifted his position to one of support for the White House plan Thursday, telling colleagues, “I believe it is important for America to speak with one voice.”

With few exceptions, world leaders have said that while they concur that Iraq needs to allow U.N.-mandated weapons inspections, they would not support military action taken without the U.N.’s approval. The Security Council is still considering a tough U.S.- and British-backed resolution that would order Iraq to provide weapons inspectors with full and unfettered access or face military consequences.

Chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix has said that his team will delay returning to Baghdad until the Security Council has finished its debate on the new resolution.

“We had a timeline that we presented to the Security Council, which aimed at the middle of October. And if the Security Council now is going to work out a new resolution, which might in some ways change our mandate, then we think that it would be reasonable to wait for that mandate, at least for some little time, so still hopefully before the end of October,” Blix told the NewsHour on Wednesday.