WASHINGTON -- Stunned members of Maryland's congressional delegation set aside past differences with President Bush over his handling of the gulf crisis last night and called for unity and support of U.S. troops in the Middle East now that war has begun.
Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, D-Md., a member of the Foreign Relations Committee and one of the most vocal critics of the president for not giving economic sanctions against Iraq enough time to work, was quick to throw his support behind Mr. Bush last night.
"I think it's clear that while there were differences over the policy we should follow expressed in the debates last week, now that our forces are engaged, we're all united in supporting our armed forces," Mr. Sarbanes said.
Mr. Sarbanes, one of six members of the Maryland delegation who voted against a congressional resolution authorizing the president's use of force to free Kuwait, said members of Congress "all hope for an early resolution with a minimum of deaths and casualties."
Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Md., who also voted against the resolution to use force, echoed the Sarbanes comments.
"My thoughts and prayers are with the men and women on the front lines. Like so many people, I had hoped that it would not come to this," Ms. Mikulski said. She added the hope that "no American is in battle any longer than is absolutely necessary."
Representative Helen Delich Bentley, R-Md.-2nd, a staunch supporter of President Bush, said she was not surprised by news of the attack, but "I was still stunned when it actually happened."
"I am grateful that the first air strikes appear to be very successful. I hope they got the first targets that they need to put Iraq out of business," she said. "The one thing we all need to do more than ever is to let our troops know we're behind them."
"Clearly the president is absolutely correct," said Representative Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md.-5th. "Saddam Hussein has refused to cooperate in any manner."
"The swift force is proper to end this thing as soon as possible," said Representative Wayne T. Gilchrest, R-Md.-1st, the newest member of the delegation and a Vietnam War veteran. "We had no alternative."
Representative Constance A. Morella, R-Md.-8th, the sole Republican in the delegation to vote against the use of force in the Persian Gulf, said she was "terribly saddened" by the news that Iraq had been attacked.
But, she said, "It is a time for prayer on the part of all Americans -- for our country, for our president and our troops who are over there."
Representative Benjamin L. Cardin, D-Md.-3rd, another member of the delegation who voted against the resolution, said: "As a realist, I knew that this was coming, but I still didn't believe it. It was a feeling of sorrow that it had gotten down to a war, a feeling that this was a moment in history and a time I will always remember."
Representative Beverly B. Byron, D-Md.-6th, a member of the House Armed Services Committee who supported the resolution use force in the gulf, said she was "never convinced of the inevitability of this confrontation." But she added, Iraq left President Bush "no choice."