House, Senate approve Iraq war resolution
The House and the Senate have voted to give President Bush broad authority to use military force against Iraq.
The House approved the resolution Thursday on a 296-133 vote. The Senate followed suit early Friday morning, voting 77-23 to back the measure.
On the House side, the vote showed stronger opposition by Democrats than their party leaders had expected. In the vote on the resolution, 126 Democrats were opposed, along with six Republicans and independent Rep. Bernard Sanders of Vermont.
House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt, D-Mo., was instrumental in working with White House officials on details of the resolution. His aides initially had said it would receive strong Democratic backing. Democratic Caucus Chairman Martin Frost of Texas predicted in a National Public Radio interview Thursday morning that a majority of Democrats would support the resolution.
Instead, most Democrats lined up behind an alternative sponsored by Rep. John Spratt, D-S.C., that would have authorized military force if the United Nations approved an appropriate resolution. The House defeated that alternative, 270-155. Democrats were in favor, 147-60, although both Gephardt and Frost were opposed. Minority Whip Pelosi worked closely with Spratt on the details and in securing support for his proposal.
Also receiving unexpected support was an amendment by Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., which emphasized the need for diplomacy and the resumption of inspections in Iraq. It had no provision for military action. With 71 Democrats voting in favor, it was defeated 355-72.
Supporters included 33 of the 37 voting members of the Congressional Black Caucus. The only CBC members opposing Lee's proposal were Reps. Sanford Bishop of Georgia, William Lacy Clay of Missouri, Harold Ford Jr. of Tennessee and William Jefferson of Louisiana.
The only Republican voting for Lee's amendment was Rep. Constance Morella of Maryland, who faces a competitive reelection contest. On the final vote for the resolution, she was joined by Republican Reps. John Duncan of Tennessee, John Hostettler of Indiana, Amo Houghton of New York, Jim Leach of Iowa and Ron Paul of Texas.
Following the vote, leading opponents of the resolution claimed a measure of success. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, a leader of the group, said the 61 percent of House Democrats in opposition made a "powerful statement." He predicted that the result would have "a tempering effect on the administration to know that those lawmakers represent widespread concern across the land about the direction the country is headed."
Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash., who generated widespread criticism for harsh comments about Bush while he was in Iraq last week, said following the vote that Bush would have "an enormous responsibility" to families of Americans and Iraqis who might die in such a conflict. Speaking in the TV-radio gallery, he added that very few "children of people like us" are in the U.S. Army, and most soldiers will be "people at the bottom of the economic level."
In the Senate vote, 21 of 50 Democrats opposed the measure, along with Vermont independent James Jeffords and Lincoln Chafee, R-R.I.