Senate tables Kosovo resolution authorizing 'all necessary force'
May 4, 1999
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, May 4) -- The Senate voted 78-22 Tuesday to table a resolution that would have given President Bill Clinton congressional authorization to use all means necessary to win the current military campaign in Yugoslavia.
Web posted at: 11:36 a.m. EDT (1536 GMT)
The resolution's chief sponsor, Sen. John McCain, spoke angrily against the parliamentary manuever to set aside the measure. The Arizona Republican also heavily criticized Clinton for ruling out ground troops, saying the administration joined forces with opponents of the Kosovo campaign to kill the resolution.
Sen. John McCain was the resolution's chief sponsor
"The president doesn't want the power he possesses by law because the risks inherent in its exercise have paralyzed him," McCain said.
McCain, a former Navy pilot who was a prisoner of war in Vietnam, said United States' allies and enemies would no longer respect its power and resolve if the war in Kosovo is lost.
"I ask my colleagues in this late hour to put aside our reservations, our past animosities and encourage, implore, cajole, beg, shame this administration into doing its duty," he said. "Shame on the president if he persists in abdicating his responsibilities but shame on use if we let him."
The leaders of both parties worked to table the resolution. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Mississippi) said the resolution was premature and its language was "substantially excessive, not necessary, and uncalled for." He also said that the Senate would like a longer time to debate such a controversial topic.
"This is the wrong language and its at the wrong time," Lott said. (308K wav file)
Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-South Dakota) said neither NATO nor the Clinton Administration asked for the resolution and that the United States cannot act unilaterally in what currently is a multi-nation military campaign. He also said the resolution was too broad.
"We have no clear idea on what it is we are authorizing with this resolution," he said. (604K wav file)
Daschle also took aim at McCain's criticism of Clinton, saying the president was not alone in ruling out ground troops.
Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle voted to table the resolution
"It isn't just the president. It is all of his Joint Chiefs of Staff. It is everybody in the Pentagon who advises the president who have said, 'This is not the time,'" he said.
But McCain said that because Clinton vocally ruled out ground troops early on in the campaign, he let Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic disperse his forces throughout Kosovo to "displace, rape and murder more Kosovars more quickly than he could have if he feared he might face the mightiest army on Earth."
"War on the cheap fails to achieve the objective we went to war for," he argued.
McCain, a candidate for the 2000 GOP presidential nomination, was one of the earliest voices to say that the U.S. must win this military action at all costs and to call on the Clinton Administration to prepare for the possibility of deploying ground troops.
His proposal would have authorized the president "to use all necessary force and other means, in concert with United States allies, to accomplish United States and North Atlantic Treaty Organization objectives."
Though the debate was initially limited, senators spent all of Monday delivering speeches on the move to table the motion. From those floor remarks it was clear that a majority of senators did not wish to debate the issue at this time but that their reasons were varied.
With U.S. forces already involved in NATO airstrikes on Serbian targets in Yugoslavia and Kosovo, many Republicans have grudgingly given their support to the Clinton Administration. But some senators still oppose the action and want the U.S. to withdraw from the conflict in Yugoslavia. Others are against the introduction of ground forces.
Other senators from both sides of the political aisle said they feared that McCain's resolution is too broad. Several senators argued the move was premature. And still others complained that Clinton played the polls when he ruled out ground troops in the first place and are unwilling to back this president on anything.
By tabling the measure, the Senate also put some distance between a possible Senate vote and two votes in the House of Representatives last week in which the GOP-led body agreed to limit Clinton's authority to introduce ground forces into the Kosovo and refused to endorse the NATO airstrikes.
The Senate resolution was co-sponsored by Sens. Joseph Biden (D-Delaware), Chuck Hagel (R-Nebraska), Joe Lieberman (D-Connecticut), Thad Cochran (R-Mississippi), Chris Dodd (D-Connecticut) and Richard Lugar (R-Indiana).
The senators all said that no options for achieving U.S. objectives in the region should not be ruled out because the cost of losing this war is too great.
The White House has so far said that no plans are being made by NATO to send in ground troops but all of the co-sponsors urged the administration to prepare for the possibility of such a move.