Dems won't push separate Iraq resolution, leader says

House Minority Whip Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Monday denied reports that House Democrats were working on an official party alternative to whatever resolution comes before Congress on the use of force in Iraq.

"I don't think there will be a Democratic alternative," Pelosi said, adding that she still hopes Republican and Democratic leaders can work out language that would get "broad support." However, Pelosi noted that she, Armed Services ranking member Ike Skelton, D-Mo., and Budget ranking member John Spratt, D-S.C., were looking at ways to see their questions addressed in the resolution.

A House Democratic leadership source predicted a bipartisan resolution could gain the support of a majority of Democrats, but added: "We're probably not there yet. We're trying to carve out an area where Democrats can be comfortable supporting the president."

Pelosi said Democrats were concerned that unilateral action could harm the international coalition involved in the war on terrorism. She also raised questions about the potential cost in human lives and the cost of the war itself, noting that she heard military action in Iraq could cost up to $60 billion for the first two months, with significant long-term costs to follow.

In Senate, meanwhile, Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., said last week that President Bush has failed to make a compelling case for military action in Iraq-and urged Congress not to act hastily on the resolution.

"My concern is that the United States, in forcing war in Iraq, will end up shooting itself in the foot unless proper care and deliberation precede any action," Byrd said. "Congress must not hand this administration-or any administration-a blank check for military action," he added. While support is growing on both sides of the aisle for the White House resolution, Byrd has proven that he is capable of single-handedly slowing approval of even the most popular bills.

While it is still unclear how long Byrd will hold up the homeland security legislation, he has begun shifting his focus to the Iraq resolution.

"Before the nation is committed to war, before we send our sons and daughters to battle in faraway lands, there are critical questions that must be asked," he said on the floor last week. "To date, the answers from the administration have been less than satisfying," he added.

A lengthy debate over Iraq would make it far less likely that Congress approves a number of remaining legislative priorities before adjourning in October.

Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., last week threatened to begin holding Saturday and Sunday sessions in order to speed work in the Senate. Meanwhile, Minority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., said Monday that it is unlikely the Senate will be able to take up much besides the Iraq resolution, homeland security legislation and must-pass appropriations bills.