White House lawyers are studying legal matters related to possible military action against Iraq, and have advised President Bush a Congressional vote of support is not required. Officials stress no decision has been made.
It is yet another sign that the Bush administration is looking at all contingencies, as the president considers possible action against Baghdad.
White House lawyers have advised the president that he has the power under the Constitution as commander-in-chief to use military force. They have told Mr. Bush that there is no legal need to get formal consent from Congress.
Presidential Spokesman Ari Fleischer says Mr. Bush discussed his Constitutional powers with his legal advisors earlier this month. But he says, if the president needs to make a decision on a Congressional vote, he will take a number of factors into account.
"The president, if this were ever to come to this point, would consider a variety of legal, policy and historical factors in making up his mind about this, if it, again, becomes a relevant matter," he said.
Mr. Fleischer makes clear the president wants to work with Congress. When asked by reporters if Mr. Bush believes he should ask lawmakers for permission before launching an attack, the White House spokesman was evasive.
"The president will consult with Congress, because Congress has an important role to play," he said.
The debate over just who has the power to send U.S. troops into harm's way has been raging in Washington for years. President Bush's father, George Bush, was advised by his lawyers that he did not need Congressional approval before the Gulf War, but he sought a vote in 1991 anyway, as a display of solidarity.
Some prominent members of Congress are urging George W. Bush to follow his father's example. A few have threatened to bring resolutions on Iraq before the House and Senate in September, no matter what the White House decides to do.
There are deep splits in Congress over the proper course of action toward Iraq, even within the president's own party. Some have warned the White House to consider the consequences of military action, and exercise the utmost caution.
In a speech in Nashville, Tennessee, Vice-President Dick Cheney said, those who advise restraint in dealing with Saddam Hussein are employing "deeply flawed logic."
He told a gathering of military veterans that the Iraqi leader wants to develop and acquire weapons of mass destruction and the means to use them.
"There is no doubt that he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies, and against us," he said. "And there is no doubt that his aggressive regional ambitions will lead him into future confrontations with his neighbors, confrontations that will involve both the weapons he has today and the ones he will continue to develop with his oil wealth."
Mr. Cheney said the Bush administration cannot simply turn away, hope for the best, and leave the problem for future American presidents to solve.