Congress Fails To Reach Consensus On Iraq Before Break

By John Bisney and Ann Curley/CNN

WASHINGTON (Feb. 12) -- Congress is leaving town for a President's Day break without passing formal resolutions endorsing a possible U.S. military strike against Iraq.

In the Senate, behind-the-scenes talks aimed at producing such a statement have failed to produce wording acceptable to both parties, but both Majority Leader Trent Lott and Minority Leader Tom Daschle took to the Senate floor Thursday to make it clear they are speaking with one voice to condemn Iraq's refusal to comply with U.N. resolutions.

Members of both parties have expressed qualms in recent days about U.S. strategy. While some Democrats are concerned about handing President Bill Clinton a "blank check" to conduct military operations, several Republicans question whether the administration is willing to take the kind of decisive action needed to remove Saddam Hussein from power.

In the House, Republican and Democratic leaders showed a united front by going to the floor and stating their support for President Bill Clinton and for any military action the United States may take against Iraq.

But Minority Leader Dick Gephardt threw a barb at Republican leaders for not acting swiftly to allow members to vote on a resolution on Iraq on the House floor before leaving for the Presidents' Day recess.

Both House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Gephardt expressed their support for any military action against Iraq, should ongoing diplomatic negotiations fail.

Gephardt, however, told House Republican leaders that Clinton "should have the support of the Congress and the public with sending our service men and women into harm's way. I am very concerned that we have not acted on a resolution of support already."

Gephardt noted that Gingrich and Lott pledged their support for Clinton's stance two weeks ago. "Two weeks later we are still not having action in the Congress on a resolution," Gephardt complained.

In his remarks, Gingrich said the U.S. has no argument with the people of Iraq, but Hussein "is clearly a brutal and dangerous dictator who, despite having lost a war against the coalition, despite having subjected his people to seven years of economic sanctions, despite the United Nations inspectors in his own country, despite the world media watching him, despite the pressure diplomatically from virtually every country in the world, has kept trying to build and retain chemical and bacterial weapons of mass destruction.

"I urge Saddam Hussein to save the people of Iraq from violence," Gingrich said. "I urge him to take a step toward ultimately someday lifting the sanctions, I urge him to comply with United Nations resolution, and I want him to know that."

Earlier in the day, a leading Senate advocate of attacking Iraq says U.S. policy must be focused on removing Hussein from power.


Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said Congress should agree that the U.S. must "respond forcefully ... far more so than it has in the past...and that it must adopt whatever measures will insure the removal from power [of Saddam].

"We must prepare the groundwork for a process that may take years to bear fruit, and it will certainly entail the loss of life ... the air and missile strikes we launch against Iraq must be decisive and not the kind of exceedingly limited response characterized by the 27 cruise missiles launched [before]," McCain said.

"I would never want to see myself viewed as beating the drums of war," McCain concluded, "but I would rather live with that image than look into the mirror and see a member of Congress who failed to do his duty."

Speaking on the Senate floor, McCain also predicted the chamber will ultimately support decisive action to end the threat posed by Iraq.

The Senate will return from its previously scheduled Presidents' Day recess on Monday, Feb. 23, and the House will return the following day.

In Other News

Thursday February 12, 1998

Groups Ask For New Look Into Ron Brown's Death
Starr's Office Seeks Testimony From Secret Service Agents
Congress Fails To Reach Consensus On Iraq Before Break
U.S. Judge Says Line-item Veto Unconstitutional
Dems Back Clinton Plan To Bolster Social Security With Budget Surplus
Clinton Promotes $1 Minimum Wage Hike
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