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US Opponents of Iraq War Resolution Say CIA Report Bolsters Their Position - 2002-10-09

As they continue debate on possible military action against Iraq, lawmakers are reacting to a CIA report made public Tuesday, which said a U.S. attack might trigger Iraqi-supported terrorist attacks. Opponents of the Iraq resolution cite the CIA information as further justification for their position, while the White House and congressional supporters of the Iraq resolution say the report changes nothing.

The CIA assessment served as the backdrop for much of the debate in the House and Senate.

The White House said the report does not weaken its position that preemptive action is required to eliminate Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, a point made in the Senate by Republican John McCain.

"If you believe Saddam Hussein, after we go through this expression of approval, of national debate, [and U.N.] security council resolutions, is not going to abandon his quest for these weapons, then the longer we wait the more dangerous he becomes," he said.

However, resolution opponents in the House of Representatives say the CIA report contributes to skepticism about the reliability of administration statements on the threat from Iraq.

"These contradictions have raised questions in the minds of members of Congress and stopped the momentum which the administration is trying to build," said Ohio Democrat Dennis Kucinich.

The CIA information did not change the views of the staunchest supporters such as Democratic Congresswoman Jane Harman and Republican Sherwood Boehlert.

"Saddam Hussein's belligerent intentions and his possession and ongoing development of weapons of mass destruction to fulfill those intentions make him a clear and present danger to the United States and the world," said Democratic Congresswoman Jane Harman.

"The president is going about it in the correct way. He's not some rogue cowboy from Texas as the 'Lone Ranger', but a thoughtful international leader rising to the occasion," said Republican Sherwood Boehlert.

In both houses of Congress, the White House-backed resolution appears headed for an overwhelming victory.

However, House Democrats are lining up to support a substitute resolution offered by South Carolina Democrat John Spratt. He proposes President Bush be required to come back to Congress for a separate "fast-track" vote on military action if he decides a new U.N. Security Council resolution is insufficient.

"We are supporting multilateral action, sanctioned by the United Nations, but at the same time keeping open a clear path for expedited consideration of alternatives if they become necessary," he said.

A similar proposal is being sponsored in the Senate by Michigan Democrat Carl Levin.

Senate debate focused on concerns Congress is giving up too much authority to the President. "This resolution when you get through the pages of 'whereas' clauses is nothing more than a blank check. This Vermonter does not sign blank checks," said Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy.

The Senate rejected by a vote of 88-10 an amendment by Florida Democrat Bob Graham who wanted to expand presidential authority to include five key terrorist organizations.

Senate Republicans are increasingly confident of a large victory for the White House-backed Iraq resolution. Majority leader Tom Daschle says he intends to do everything possible to complete debate and vote this week. The House remains on track for a final vote on Thursday.