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Lawmakers voice support for armed forces

House, Senate resolutions commend president, troops

By Sean Loughlin
CNN Washington Bureau

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, left, and Sen. John Warner hold a news conference on Capitol Hill.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, left, and Sen. John Warner hold a news conference on Capitol Hill.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Ending hours of debate, the House early Friday joined the Senate in approving a resolution expressing support for U.S. forces fighting in Iraq, but not without some partisan debate over its wording.

The House resolution, approved on a 392-11 vote, "expresses the unequivocal support and appreciation of the nation" to the members of the U.S. armed forces and their families. And it also commends the president for "his firm leadership and decisive action in the conduct of military operations in Iraq as part of the ongoing global war on terrorism," a line that generated anger among some Democrats.

The Senate resolution was similar, but its language on the president was not as strong, and it did not tie explicitly the unfolding war to the battle against terrorism. The Senate measure, passed on a 99-0 vote, also singles out British Prime Minister Tony Blair -- an outspoken supporter of the military strike against Iraq -- for his government's "courageous and steadfast support."

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The only senator who didn't vote was Democrat Zell Miller of Georgia, who was absent on a family matter.

In a display of unity, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tennessee, stood with Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-South Dakota, as the resolution was introduced on the Senate floor.

"As one senator, I'm very proud that differences have been reconciled and that this resolution bears both of your distinguished names," said Sen. John Warner of Virginia, the Republican chairman of the Armed Services Committee.

Daschle infuriated many Republicans Tuesday when he blasted what he called Bush's "failed" diplomacy, saying it had moved the country toward war.

Thursday, Daschle sounded a different note.

"We may have had differences of opinion about what brought us to this point, but the president is commander-in-chief, and today we unite behind him as well," Daschle said.

Things were not as harmonious on the House side even though the resolution passed by an overwhelming margin. While Democrats were eager to indicate their support for U.S. troops, some did not want to appear to endorse Bush. Others questioned the Bush administration's portrayal of the strike against Iraq as part of the broader battle against terrorism.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, said the House majority was trying "to force members of Congress to vote in favor of the president's unjustified war by wrapping it in sentiments supporting the troops."

He said it's possible to oppose the mission and support the troops at the same time. "Many leading Republicans voted to cut off funds for the military action while the troops were deployed" to Bosnia Herzegovina in 1995, he said in a statement, citing one example.

Kucinich is a Democratic contender for the 2004 presidential nomination and has been an outspoken critic of the war.

Throughout the day, lawmakers took to the House and Senate floors, offering words of praise for men and women in uniform. Most offices also released written statements.

House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Illinois, compared the start of hostilities with the June 6, 1944, invasion of Normandy, France, saying this action by American forces is a "noble mission to free the Iraqi people from an evil tyrant."

In stark contrast, Kucinich, called the start of the war "a sad day for America, the world community and the people of Iraq."

But most lawmakers did not criticize Bush in their statements. Instead, they focused their comments on the men and women in uniform.

"We are awed by their sacrifice and their bravery, and we want them and their families to know that they have the profound respect and gratitude of every American," Daschle said.

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, said Congress must ensure that the armed forces have all the resources they need. "This war will be fought with the greatest resources, intelligence and manpower we can muster."

Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, focused his comments on Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

"There is no negotiating with a man like this," DeLay said. "There is no safe path to accommodate his ambitions. Our only responsible option was to confront this threat before more Americans die. He must be removed from power."

Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Connecticut, who has been one of the staunchest Democratic supporters of a war on Iraq, said the strike "is a task of high justice and necessity."

Sen. Bob Graham, D-Florida, another presidential contender, said he was struck by Bush's address to the nation Wednesday night.

"What I found most notable about President Bush's remarks was that he began to prepare the people for the potential long-term consequence of this action, including the possibility of a protracted military engagement, the hopefully limited collateral damage to Iraqi civilians, and the role that the United States will play after the hostilities cease," Graham said.

-- Congressional Correspondent Jonathan Karl, Capitol Hill Producer Ted Barrett contributed to this report.

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