Iraq resolution introduced in Senate
Bush hails 'unity'; debate set for Thursday
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Despite some Democratic divisions, the Senate moved closer Wednesday to sanctioning war with Iraq with the introduction of a bipartisan resolution that gives President Bush the authority to commit U.S. troops.
In a Rose Garden appearance with lawmakers who support his plan, Bush hailed the resolution as a show of "unity" and declared that war with Iraq "may be unavoidable."
The Senate resolution mirrors one that House leaders and Bush administration officials agreed to earlier in the day. It would limit the use of the U.S. military force to Iraq and any "current ongoing threats" it poses, and allow Bush to use American troops to force Iraq's compliance with U.N. resolutions on disarmament. The congressional resolution would not tie U.S. action to a U.N. resolution.
The resolution was introduced by Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Connecticut. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle -- who has clashed with Bush over Iraq -- was noticeably absent from the initial floor proceedings and the Rose Garden news conference.
Some Democrats -- and a few Republicans -- remain uneasy with the prospect of authorizing war without more international support for such a move, but the momentum for a resolution was clearly in the White House's favor.
Formal debate on the resolution in the Democratic-controlled Senate was expected to begin Thursday. The House International Relations Committee was to begin its work on the resolution later Wednesday with debate in that GOP-controlled chamber to follow next week.
Lieberman introduced the resolution in the Senate with Sens. John McCain, R-Arizona, Evan Bayh, D-Indiana, and John Warner, R-Virginia. The men joined Bush at the later Rose Garden event.
"The text of our bipartisan resolution is clear and it is strong," Bush said. "The statement of support from the Congress will show to friend and enemy alike the resolve of the Untied States. In Baghdad, the regime will know that full compliance with all U.N. security demands is the only choice -- and the time remaining for that choice is limited."
Declared Lieberman, who is mulling a run for the White House in 2004: "The moment of truth has arrived for Saddam Hussein."
The agreement came after the White House agreed to a number of concessions in its initial proposal for broad authority to use military force. Some Democrats in the Senate want the administration to go further, but Bush largely got what he wanted.
Sen. Joseph Biden, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the House agreement with the administration had undercut efforts for further negotiations in the Senate, as well as those at the United Nations. The Delaware Democrat said it was "probably too late" to change the resolution significantly.
Amendments, however, were expected to be introduced to the Senate resolution in an effort to narrow how the administration could use military force against Iraq.
"I'm sure the argument will be why are we nit-picking, but what I want to do at a minimum in the debate is lay out what I understand what the president's committing to do," Biden said.
House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt, D-Missouri, said the resolution moves "us in the right direction," but he conceded that differences remain among Democrats about Iraq.
"Everybody needs to decide this on their own, what their conscience dictates, what their hearts and minds tell them to do," Gephardt said.
The bipartisan resolution includes language:
Following the introduction of the resolution in the Senate, Daschle released a statement saying it contained "improvements over the initial proposal" submitted by the White House. But he said more modifications were needed, including "a clearer assessment of the administration's plans for the political and economic reconstruction of a post-Saddam Iraq."
Still, Daschle predicted the Senate would adopt a resolution with "broad bipartisan support."
Meanwhile, Wednesday morning, two congressmen -- just returned from a controversial visit to Baghdad -- held a news conference and defended their trip, which had drawn harsh criticism.
"We went to Iraq because we care what happens to Americans -- what happens to American soldiers, what happens to American people," said Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Washington.
While in Iraq, Reps. David Bonior, D-Michigan, and McDermott urged Bush to allow the U.N. inspections to resume first and see that process through. (Full story)
Earlier this week, McCain, a former Vietnam prisoner of war, said the key issue is where the congressmen made their comments.
"Look, if Congressman McDermott and Congressman Bonior wanted to go to the floor of the House and question the president's credibility, go right ahead and do it," McCain said. "Don't go to Baghdad and do it." (Full story)
Despite an agreement between United Nations and Iraqi officials, the United States said Tuesday it will oppose the return of U.N. inspectors for weapons of mass destruction to Iraq without a new mandate from the U.N. Security Council. (Full story)
Iraq has denied possessing weapons of mass destruction -- chemical, biological or nuclear.
-- CNN correspondents John King, Kate Snow and Jonathan Karl, and Capitol Hill Producer Dana Bash contributed to this report.