Congress nears OK of military action vs. Iraq

Democrats want narrower scope for measure giving Bush power to attack


WASHINGTON - Congress will soon pass a resolution giving President Bush power to take military action against Iraq, Republicans and Democrats predicted yesterday, but Democrats called for some refinements.

"It's much too broad," Sen. Carl Levin, the Michigan Democrat who is chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said on Fox News Sunday. "There's no limit at all on presidential powers. It's not even limited to Iraq."

Rep. Henry J. Hyde, the Illinois Republican who is chairman of the House International Relations Committee, said on CNN that he was "personally satisfied" with the draft resolution's language but that "it's going to go through a markup process" in his committee, possibly this week.

Members of both parties said they would prefer the Bush administration win a resolution from the United Nations Security Council authorizing military action against Iraq. But several said that they would not make American action conditional on U.N. approval.

"We can never subject our security interests to the United Nations or the Security Council of the United Nations on the ground that somehow that's a moral objective force out there," said Sen. John Kyl, an Arizona Republican, on ABC's This Week. "That's a group of nations with their own self-interest, just as we have our own self-interest."

But many of the lawmakers who appeared on the talk shows said that despite doubts about military action expressed by France and Russia, members of the Security Council with veto power, the United Nations would, in fact, pass a resolution.

"I don't see a scenario where the Security Council doesn't at least give some kind of endorsement," said Sen. John McCain, an Arizona Republican appearing on NBC's Meet the Press. "It's hard for me to imagine, given as the president has argued, that they would render themselves irrelevant to some degree if they countenance a direct contradiction and violation of the Security Council resolutions," he said.

While some Democrats objected to the draft resolution in its current form, none of the senators and representatives chosen for the talk shows opposed the idea of military action against Iraq.

Delaware Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., who is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, predicted on CNN passage of a resolution that would "meet every need the administration has."

"That process is under way," he said. But referring to the draft sent to Congress last week, he said, "That won't be the language."

The White House text listed 12 Security Council resolutions and said, "The president is authorized to use all means that he determines to be appropriate, including force, in order to enforce the United Nations Security Council Resolutions referenced above, defend the national security interests of the United States against the threat posed by Iraq, and restore international peace and security in the region."

Biden suggested that the resolution should focus on preventing Iraq from gaining weapons of mass destruction.

"That should be our international rationale for moving, if we move, not this new doctrine of pre-emption and this doctrine of regime change," he said. A pre-emptive strike to force regime change would become a precedent that other countries might seek to use.

But Alabama Republican Sen. Richard C. Shelby said on CBS, "I believe that the Bush resolution is going to pass the Senate and the House by overwhelming numbers."

And Kyl, on ABC, asked by Stephanopolous whether the resolution constituted a "blank check," said, "I think it's entirely appropriate."

"The president needs the authority to do the things that we all know need to be done," he said. "If you have a crimped set of words in there that have to be subject to interpretation or revisiting with subsequent resolutions, you don't have the authority that the president will need."

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