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Lawmakers 'very serious' about votes on resolution

October 08, 2002|by LAURA ERNDE

laurae@herald-mail.com

Although Congress is expected to easily pass a resolution authorizing force against Iraq, a check with Tri-State area lawmakers suggests they are not taking the vote lightly.

With debate in the House of Representatives beginning today, two local Republicans - U.S. Reps. Roscoe Bartlett Jr. of Maryland and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia - said they remained undecided on the resolution Monday.

Both said they needed time to carefully read the resolution and consider President Bush's Monday night speech before deciding how to vote.

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"It's a very, very serious and grave decision we're being asked to make," Capito said.

Capito said one of her biggest concerns is that many constituents want Bush to work within the framework of the United Nations in dealing with Saddam Hussein.

Bartlett, who sits on the House National Security Committee, said he believes four criteria should be met before the United States uses pre-emptive military force against Iraq:

  • International and regional involvement and support.

  • Inclusion of Congress in the decision-making process.

  • Clear support of the American people.

  • Minimal risk to the military while reaching tangible and established goals.


"I will be studying the resolution brought before the House of Representatives to determine if it will meet these criteria," Bartlett said in a statement.

"I believe that before the United States commits the young men and women of our military in a pre-emptive attack against Iraq, it is important for our President and the young people who will be doing the fighting to know that they are supported by the American public, the Congress and international and regional allies. They deserve nothing less."

U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., said he will support Bush's efforts to remove all weapons of mass destruction from Iraq.

"Over the last decade, Saddam Hussein has violated U.N. resolutions that clearly require he both destroy all weapons and allow unfettered weapons inspections. Iraq has failed on all accounts. As we move forward, I will support President Bush's efforts to rid the world of this threat," he said.

A vote in the Republican-controlled House, which has largely embraced the strong resolution Bush seeks, is expected Thursday.

A vote in the Democratic-led Senate, where Bush has encountered more resistance, also could come Thursday.

One of Bush's biggest critics when it comes to Iraq has been U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., who delivered a lengthy speech on the issue to fellow senators last Thursday.

Bush has failed to produce solid evidence linking Iraq to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, he said. Byrd also questioned whether Saddam poses an imminent threat to the United States.

Byrd accused Bush last week of being motivated by campaign politics.

"Before risking the lives of American troops, all members of Congress - Democrats and Republicans alike - must overcome the siren song of political polls and focus strictly on the merits, not the politics, of this most serious issue," Byrd said.

Never in its history has the United States engaged in a pre-emptive military attack against another nation, he said.

Under the Constitution, it's up to Congress and not the president to declare war, he said.

Byrd said Congress should let the United Nations develop new, tougher inspections of Saddam's weapons facilities, he said.

"I urge restraint," he said. "Let us be convinced that a reinvigorated inspection regime cannot work before we move to any next step, and let us, if we must employ force, employ the most precise and limited use of force necessary to get the job done."

U.S. Sen. Paul Sarbanes, D-Md., will not support a resolution without a strong multilateral component to it, his spokesman Jesse Jacobs said.

"He does not believe we should act in a unilateral way. We should not be doing this on our own. We should be pursuing all options through the United Nations," Jacobs said.

U.S. Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Md., said Bush must make the case that there is a direct, imminent threat to the United States before unilateral action is justified.

U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., had not made a decision about the resolution Monday, said his spokeswoman, Wendy Morigi.

He wants the resolution to focus solely on Iraq and eliminating its weapons of mass destruction. He doesn't believe the United States should resort to using force until all diplomatic options have been explored, she said.

"He believes that war should be the last option," she said.

Neither U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., nor U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., responded to requests for their positions on the issue.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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