Senate Continues Negotiating Resolution Over Force in IraqBy Janet Hook
LOS ANGELES TIMES -- washington
As the Senate prepares for a potentially divisive debate this week on a resolution authorizing military action against Iraq, negotiations continued Monday for compromise wording that could increase support for the measure from Democrats.
Sources close to the talks say the White House is still not likely to make major concessions to Democrats who want more emphasis on diplomatic efforts to disarm Iraq and U.N. support for possible action against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
But with the talks proceeding on Monday, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., dropped plans to open debate on the resolution Tuesday, postponing it at least until after a Wednesday morning meeting the White House called with congressional leaders.
At issue is whether the Bush administration will accept further concessions to expand support for the resolution among Democrats who think the president has requested powers too broad and unchecked by Congress.
“I’m not sure how far each side is going to move, but the goal still remains to get the broadest bipartisan support possible,” said Kori Bernards, a spokeswoman for House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt, D-Mo.
The push to alter the war authorization was given a bipartisan boost in recent days as Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana, a respected Republican leader on foreign policy, joined Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Joseph Biden, D-Del., in pushing an alternative resolution that would be more limited than the Bush proposal.
Sean McCormack, spokesman for the National Security Council, said the proposal was “too narrowly focused,” because it dealt only with enforcing U.N. Security Council language dealing with weapons of mass destruction, rather than upholding authority to act against Hussein in response to Iraqi support for terrorism and threats against its neighbors.
The resolution submitted by Bush two weeks ago requested open-ended powers to challenge Iraq and promote “peace and security in the region.” That measure is sure to be amended -- if only to incorporate changes the administration agreed to last week in response to complaints from members of both parties that the measure was too broadly worded and should include some consultation with Congress.
But even those changes were not enough for many Senate Democrats. And partisan cross-fire over Iraq continued Monday as Republican leaders criticized the three House Democrats who traveled to Baghdad over the weekend.
Rep. Tom Davis of Virginia, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, attacked Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash., for suggesting while in Baghdad that Bush would “mislead the American people.”