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Lawmakers applaud Powell presentation

But some questions remain about move toward war

By Sean Loughlin
CNN Washington Bureau

Secretary of State Colin Powell won praise from Capitol Hill for his presentation to the U.N.
Secretary of State Colin Powell won praise from Capitol Hill for his presentation to the U.N.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Secretary of State Colin Powell won praise Wednesday from Capitol Hill for his presentation to the United Nations, but some lawmakers, primarily Democrats, said questions remain about what the next step should be in the confrontation with Iraq.

Democrats and Republicans expressed hope that the presentation would convince more nations to join the United States in its vow to use military force, if necessary, to disarm Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

"I think he advanced that cause very well," Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said of Powell.

But some lawmakers stressed that the Bush administration needs to better prepare the American public for the sacrifices and commitment that a war with Iraq would likely involve. And several members of Congress said they would like to see a final ultimatum from the United Nations in the form of another resolution before the United States moves against Iraq.

"I think Secretary Powell made a very powerful and, I think, irrefutable case today before the Security Council," said Sen. Joseph Biden, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

In unusually strong terms, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, said Powell's presentation had caused her to question whether there was any other way but war to force Saddam to disarm.

"I no longer think inspections are going to work," Feinstein, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told reporters. "Absent Saddam capitulating and leaving, I don't know that there's any other solution."

House Speaker Dennis Hastert said Powell's presentation had unveiled "the true nature" of Saddam's regime.

"The evidence proves that Saddam Hussein has a loaded gun pointed at the civilized world," Hastert said in a statement. "It is time to take that loaded gun away from this evil tyrant."

Many lawmakers said the presentation proved that Saddam was hiding weapons of mass destruction and trying to amass more.

Biden, D-Delaware, stressed that President Bush needs to do a better job of preparing the American public for a long-term commitment of U.S. armed forces in Iraq. Many people, Biden said, believe a military strike against Iraq would be "bloodless" and that U.S. troops would return home quickly.

Sen. Joseph Biden called Powell's presentation '
Sen. Joseph Biden called Powell's presentation '"irrefutable."

"Johnny will not come marching home. We will be required to stay in-country with tens of thousands of forces for an extended period of time," Biden said, adding that such an endeavor would cost billions of dollars.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard Lugar, R-Indiana, said the administration had made a "very powerful case" against Iraq and expressed optimism that it would sway world opinion against Saddam.

Sen. George Allen, R-Virginia, agreed, predicting more nations would soon stand with the United States against Iraq.

"Time is running very short," Allen said.

But some lawmakers, particularly Democrats, remained leery of the prospect of war. Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Massachusetts, said Powell had made "a very strong case" about the dangers posed by Saddam, but said that does not mean the United States should strike Iraq.

"The question isn't disarming Saddam Hussein," Kennedy said. "It is how to be able to do it."

Many members of Congress, primarily Democrats, have been calling on the administration to make a clearer case that Saddam poses a threat to the United States and the world before the president sends troops in to topple him.

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, dismissed the suggestion that the administration has any more proving to do.

"I don't think any amount of evidence will convince the appeasers out there," DeLay said.

Rep. Jane Harman, D-California, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said she is pleased the administration is getting "beyond the rhetoric," but she said the presentation was overdue.

"This is what we should have been doing a while ago," said Harman.

In a typical reaction to Powell's speech, Sen. John Kerry -- a Democratic presidential contender for 2004 -- said Powell had effectively placed the onus on the United Nations to enforce its own resolutions.

"With such strong evidence in front of them, it is now incumbent on the U.N. to respect its own mandates," Kerry said.

Capitol Hill Producer Trish Turner contributed to this report.

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