House gives Bush authority for war with Iraq
Bush: U.S. must confront Iraq 'fully and finally'
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush praised the House of Representatives for voting to give him authority to go to war to disarm Iraq Thursday, calling it "a debate and a result that all Americans can be proud of."
The House voted 296-133 to give Bush the authority to use U.S. military force to make Iraq comply with U.N. resolutions requiring it to give up weapons of mass destruction. Across the Capitol, a companion measure cleared a procedural vote by a wide margin earlier Thursday and drew the support of the chamber's Democratic leader.
"The House of Representatives has spoken clearly to the world and to the United Nations Security Council. The gathering threat of Iraq must be confronted fully and finally," Bush said. "Today's vote also sends a clear message to the Iraqi regime: It must disarm and comply with all existing U.N. resolutions, or it will be forced to comply."
The resolution passed by the House authorizes Bush to commit U.S. troops to enforce U.N. Security Council resolutions requiring that Iraq give up weapons of mass destruction. It requires Bush to declare to Congress either before or within 48 hours after beginning military action that diplomatic efforts to enforce those resolutions have failed.
The Bush administration and its supporters in Congress say Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has kept a stockpile of chemical and biological weapons in violation of U.N. resolutions and has continued efforts to develop nuclear weapons. Bush also has argued that Iraq could give chemical or biological weapons to terrorists.
"Saddam Hussein is seeking the means to murder millions in just a single moment. He's trying to extend that grip of fear beyond his own borders and he is consumed with hatred for America," said House Majority Whip Tom DeLay, R-Texas.
Under the resolution passed Thursday, Bush also must certify that action against Iraq would not hinder efforts to pursue the al Qaeda terrorist network that attacked New York and Washington last year. And it requires the administration to report to Congress on the progress of any war with Iraq every 60 days.
Most opposition came from Democrats, who were sharply divided on the issue. Minority Leader Richard Gephardt, D-Missouri, said giving Bush the authority to attack Iraq could avert war by demonstrating the United States is willing to confront Saddam Hussein over his obligations to the United Nations.
"I believe we have an obligation to protect the United States by preventing him from getting these weapons and either using them himself or passing them or their components on to terrorists who share his destructive intent," said Gephardt, who helped draft the measure.
But Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, said Congress and the administration were being driven by fear.
"It is fear which leads us to war," Kucinich said. "It is fear which leads us to believe that we must kill or be killed. Fear which leads us to attack those who have not attacked us. Fear which leads us to ring our nation in the very heavens with weapons of mass destruction."
Six House Republicans -- Ron Paul of Texas; Connie Morella of Maryland; Jim Leach of Iowa; Amo Houghton of New York; John Hostettler of Indiana; and John Duncan of Tennessee -- joined 126 Democrats in voting against the resolution. A total of 215 Republicans and 81 Democrats voted for it.
Iraq has denied having weapons of mass destruction and has offered to allow U.N. weapons inspectors to return for the first time since 1998. Deputy Prime Minister Abdul Tawab Al-Mulah Huwaish called the allegations "lies" Thursday and offered to let U.S. officials inspect plants they say are developing nuclear, biological and chemical weapons.
"If the American administration is interested in inspecting these sites, then they're welcome to come over and have a look for themselves," he said.
Bush wins Daschle's support
The Senate is expected to hold a final vote on the measure late Thursday or early Friday. Thursday morning, Majority Leader Tom Daschle announced he will support Bush on Iraq, saying it is important for the country "to speak with one voice at this critical moment."
Daschle said the threat of Iraq's weapons programs "may not be imminent. But it is real. It is growing. And it cannot be ignored." However, he urged Bush to move "in a way that avoids making a dangerous situation even worse."
Daschle, D-South Dakota, had expressed reservations about a possible U.S. attack on Iraq, and he was not part of an agreement between the White House and other congressional leaders framing the resolution last week.
Supporters of the White House-backed measure Thursday turned back an amendment by Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Michigan, that would have limited U.S. military action to enforcing a new U.N. resolution to eliminate Iraq's nuclear, biological and chemical weapons programs. If the United Nations did not act, Bush could seek a second vote to move against Iraq without U.N. support.
The amendment died on a 75-24 vote. An earlier 75-25 vote cut off the threat of a filibuster by Sen. Robert Byrd, D-West Virginia. Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott said the votes are likely to reflect the final outcome.
"That doesn't necessarily mean that would be the vote on the substance on final passage, but it's probably pretty close," said Lott, R-Mississippi.
Byrd argued the resolution amounted to a "blank check" for the White House.
"This is the Tonkin Gulf resolution all over again," Byrd said. "Let us stop, look and listen. Let us not give this president or any president unchecked power. Remember the Constitution."