WASHINGTON -- The House of Representatives gave a final blessing to Operation Desert Storm yesterday, overwhelmingly approving a resolution expressing solidarity with President Bush and the U.S. forces deployed in the Persian Gulf.
On a 399-6 vote, the House approved the same resolution that the Senate unanimously adopted Thursday.
The act represented the last presently contemplated war-related action by the full Congress, whose members have been sitting uneasily on the sidelines and watching events unfold, largely beyond their control.
"The Congress has spoken," said House Speaker Thomas S. Foley, D-Wash.
"We now have Americans involved in military operations in the field, and the Congress will support those troops, fully, and with all necessary means to carry out their mission."
Next month, Congress will consider a request from the Bush administration for funds to pay for the costs of Operation Desert Storm. Although many members have questioned whether countries benefiting from the operation -- most notably Japan, Germany, and Kuwait itself -- are shouldering a sufficient percentage of the costs, congressional support for the funding request appears to be a foregone conclusion.
In the meantime, lawmakers, administration officials and constitutional experts agree that Congress has granted the president the necessary legal and political authorization to wage war for the liberation of Kuwait.
Last week, Congress approved a measure empowering the president to force Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's troops out of Kuwait. The president did not request a formal declaration of war -- last granted by Congress against Romania on June 5, 1942 -- in part because it would require the suspension of diplomatic relations with Iraq.
"There is no reason in my judgment at all for such a declaration to be needed," Mr. Foley said. "From the standpoint of the president's authority to conduct military operations, I know of no one . . . that has any question that the president is fully empowered by this resolution to conduct military operations."
The measure passed yesterday was crafted by Senate Republicans and Democrats after a day of partisan haggling over whether it should express congressional solidarity with Mr. Bush.
The final language, in part, says that "the Congress commends and supports the efforts and leadership of the president as commander in chief . . . [and] unequivocally supports the men and women of our armed forces who are carrying out their missions with professional excellence, dedicated patriotism and exemplary bravery."
Several lawmakers noted tartly that most of their colleagues who voted last week against the resolution authorizing military action against Iraq planned to support yesterday's measure.
"It seems to be a kind of political fig leaf to cover the keisters of members who come to the well and still say, 'Well, maybe we should have waited,' " fumed Representative Robert K. Dornan, R-Calif. "Let's vote unanimously for this excellent fig leaf resolution."
And yet, a handful of members sought no such fig leaf.
"If it was wrong to go to war before, it is no less wrong now that war has begun," said Representative Maxine Waters, D-Calif., who voted against the resolution after noting that she had a nephew stationed in the gulf.
"The commission of an immoral act does not remedy its immorality."
The eight-member Maryland House delegation -- which split evenly on authorizing the use of military action last week -- unanimously supported the resolution yesterday.
"This is not the time to second-guess the administration and the ability of our men and women," said Representative Kweisi Mfume, D-7th, who voted against the use of armed force in favor of economic sanctions last week. "The time for analysis will come later."