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 TIME on politics Congressional Quarterly CNN/AllPolitics CNN/AllPolitics - Storypage, with TIME and Congressional Quarterly

Senate likely to table Kosovo resolution

May 3, 1999
Web posted at: 7:05 p.m. EDT (2305 GMT)

WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, May 3) -- Instead of debating a resolution that would give President Bill Clinton congressional authorization to use all means necessary to win the current battle in Yugoslavia, the Senate spent Monday debating a move, supported by leaders of both parties and the White House, to table, and effectively kill, the measure.

The resolution's chief sponsor, Sen. John McCain, openly complained Monday about the parliamentary manuever to table the motion. "Apparently, the hard facts of war need not inconvenience the Senate at this time. And the solemn duties that war imposes on us can be postponed indefinitely," the Arizona Republican said with sarcasm.

Sen. John McCain  

Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Mississippi) said Sunday that he and his Democratic counterpart, Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-South Dakota), would try to put off the resolution for a "week or 10 days," saying "the timing is not exactly right" for what could become a bitter debate about the Clinton Administration's Kosovo policy.

A full Senate vote on the move to table the resolution was pushed back to Tuesday morning to allow more senators the opportunity to speak on the issue. "You cannot cut senators off who are asking to speak on matters of this magnitude," Lott said.

McCain, a candidate for the 2000 GOP presidential nomination, was one of the earliest voices to say that the U.S. must win this military action at all costs and to call on the Clinton Administration to prepare for the possibility of deploying ground troops.

His proposal would have authorized the president "to use all necessary force and other means, in concert with United States allies, to accomplish United States and North Atlantic Treaty Organization objectives."

Sen. Tim Hutchinson  

The administration did not request this authorization from Congress, and with the support of both Lott and Daschle the move to table was sure to succeed.

But what Monday's speeches showed was that while a majority of senators do not wish to debate the issue at this time, their reasons are varied.

With U.S. forces already involved in NATO airstrikes on Serbian targets in Yugoslavia and Kosovo, many Republicans have grudgingly given their support to the Clinton Administration. But some senators still oppose the action and want the U.S. to withdraw from the conflict in Yugoslavia. Others are against the introduction of ground forces.

"It has yet to be adequately demonstrated to Congress or the American people that it is our vital national interests that has drawn us into this conflict. In fact, I would say, we have stumbled into this conflict, we have slipped into this war," said Sen. Tim Hutchinson (R-Arkansas).

Liberal Democratic Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-Minnesota) agreed, saying he supports a "cessation from what seems to be a slide toward the bombing of a broader array of non-military targets, a potential oil embargo directed at other countries -- toward deeper involvement in a wider war -- that I believe we will come to regret."

The only senator of Serb descent, George Voinovich (R-Ohio), was even more critical of the mission.

Sen. Paul Wellstone  

"The time has come, Mr. President, where NATO needs to get off its high horse, restrain its ego and instead of trying to save face over a major foreign policy blunder, start thinking about saving lives," Voinovich said. "It is time to stop the bombing and put everyone's effort into finding a diplomatic solution that will quickly result in removal of ... Serbian troops in Kosovo." (288K wav file)

Some senators from both sides of the political aisle worry that McCain's resolution is too broad.

Sen. Robert Byrd (D-West Virginia) warned: "With this language the Senate is effectively bowing out of the Kosovo debate and ceding all authority to the executive branch."

Several senators argued the move is premature. And still others complained that Clinton played the polls when he ruled out ground troops in the first place and are unwilling to back this president on anything.

"Some of us in Congress are so distrustful of the president that we feel obliged to damage the office in order to restrain the current occupant," McCain said. "Both sides have lost the ability to tell the office from the man. Publicly and repeatedly ruling out ground troops may be smart politics according to the President's pollster. But it is inexcusably irresponsible leadership." (244K wav file)

Sen. George Voinovich  

Tabling the measure would also put some distance between a possible Senate vote and two votes in the House of Representatives last week in which the GOP-led body agreed to limit Clinton's authority to introduce ground forces into the Kosovo and refused to endorse the NATO airstrikes.

The Senate resolution is co-sponsored by Sens. Biden, Chuck Hagel (R-Nebraska), Joe Lieberman (D-Connecticut), Thad Cochran (R-Mississippi), Chris Dodd (D-Connecticut) and Richard Lugar (R-Indiana).

The senators all say that no options for achieving U.S. objectives in the region should not be ruled out because the cost of losing this war is too great.

The White House has so far said that no plans are being made by NATO to send in ground troops but all of the co-sponsors urged the administration to prepare for the possibility of such a move.

CNN's Candy Crowley contributed to this report.


Text of McCain resolution


Seventeen congressmen file suit against Clinton to end war (4-30-99)

House OKs bill restricting Clinton's ability to deploy ground troops (4-28-99)

Clinton warns Congress not to double Kosovo appropriations request (4-28-99)

Jackson to lead delegation of clergy on visit to Yugoslavia (4-26-99)


President Bill Clinton speaks on Kosovo (4-28-99)


Chris Black reports: President Clinton pressured to reach diplomatic solution (5-3-99) video Windows Media: 28K | 80K


Presidential hopefuls stake out positions on NATO airstrikes


How did your reps vote on the Kosovo resolutions? Find out with Congressional Quarterly's "Votewatch." The vote database is searchable by name, zip code, date or subject.


Strike on Yugoslavia

The Strike:

  • The Strike at a Glance
  • Multimedia gallery
  • Arsenal Databank

    Interactive Map:

  • The Strike: An Interactive Atlas
  • Kosovo and its Neighbors

    The Conflict:

  • E-Mails from Kosovo, Part III
  • From TIME: The Kosovo Catastrophe: In Pictures
  • Kosovo Primer


  • Clinton's speech
  • Milosevic's speech
  • More transcripts

    Key Players:

  • Interactive Who's Who


  • Sequence of events

    Message Board:

  • Your thoughts...


    Monday, May 3, 1999

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