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Iraq resolution scaled back

Daschle expects Senate floor debate next week

President Bush met with a bipartisan group of lawmakers at the White House Thursday.
President Bush met with a bipartisan group of lawmakers at the White House Thursday.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- White House and congressional staffers have scaled back a proposed resolution authorizing military action against Iraq, dropping language some members of Congress feared could give President Bush too much power.

The new draft eliminates language from the original White House proposal that granted Bush the authority to "restore international peace and security in the region." Instead, the resolution now grants Bush the power to use U.S. military force to defend U.S. national security and to enforce U.N. Security Council resolutions.

Before taking action, Bush would have to notify the Speaker of the House and the president pro tempore of the Senate that "reliance on further diplomatic means alone will not adequately protect the national security of the United States." In addition, he would have to report back to Congress on the crisis every 90 days.

The document includes new clauses urging the United Nations to "decisively ensure" Iraqi compliance with Security Council resolutions requiring it to give up weapons of mass destruction and supporting Bush's efforts to work toward a consensus in the world body.

Democrats and some Republicans had expressed concern that the White House's original resolution, which would have granted Bush the authority to act to secure peace and security in the Persian Gulf region, was too open-ended.

Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, emerging from a closed-door meeting of his caucus where they discussed the draft, said he still hoped to narrow language about how much power the president would have without U.N. cooperation.

"I'm going to do as much as possible to draft a resolution that can be supported by the broadest coalition of senators. We have, in my view, come some distance. We've got a long way to go before that can be achieved," said Daschle.

But Senate Republicans, who met simultaneously down the hallway in the Capitol, embraced the new language.

"I think we have reached a point where there is good language, and we should go forward with it," Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott said.

Senate Democrats described their meeting as "emotional," where"frustration" was expressed over feeling powerless that their concerns would not be addressed.

Many Democrats believe Congress is moving too fast and the current resolution still gives Bush too much authority to use force without exhausting diplomatic efforts and international support.

"This proposal is unacceptable. The administration has been talking about war in Iraq for quite some time now," said Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wisconsin. "Surely they had the time to draft a more careful, thoughtful proposal than the irresponsibly broad and sweeping language that they sent to Congress."

But a number Democrats said they support the current draft and are hoping for swift action.

"I think it's a strong resolution and deserves bipartisan support and I believe it may be changed more but I believe as presented now it would get broad bipartisan support," said Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Connecticut.

Two Democratic senators told CNN that Daschle made it clear to his colleagues the current draft was about as far as the White House will go to change it. Administration officials and Senate Republicans too said they viewed the draft as "take it or leave it."

Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin, D-Michigan, and other Senate Democrats are planning to try to offer alternative resolutions on the Senate floor that would require U.N. action before Bush is allowed to use the U.S. military.

Sounding a conciliatory note, Bush met with lawmakers from both parties Thursday morning, saying members are engaged in a "deliberate and civil and thorough discussion."

Bush outlined again what he described as a threat from Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, citing the possibility that Iraq would give anthrax or nerve gas to a terrorist.

"We refuse to live in this future of fear. Democrats and Republicans refuse to live in this future of fear," Bush said.

Bush's reference to "Democrats and Republicans" appeared to be an olive branch to Democrats like Daschle, who Wednesday accused Bush of exploiting national security issues for political gain. (Full story) The White House said Daschle took Bush's comments out of context.

Daschle told reporters he expected to begin Senate floor debate on the Iraq resolution next week.

-- CNN Correspondents Jonathan Karl and Kate Snow and Producer Dana Bash contributed to this report.

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