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US Lawmakers Express  Unified Support for Troops - 2003-03-21

The U.S. Senate has passed a resolution expressing support for U.S. troops fighting the war to disarm Iraq. The House of Representatives is expected to follow suit shortly.

Despite their differences over Bush administration policy toward Iraq, U.S. lawmakers Thursday expressed unified support for U.S. troops engaged in military action to disarm that country.

Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota, who angered Republicans earlier this week by accusing President Bush of "failing miserably" in his diplomatic efforts on Iraq, said "we may have had differences of opinion about what brought us to this point. But the President of the United States is the commander-in-chief, and today we are united behind him."

While expressing his support for U.S. troops, Democratic Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia did not attempt to hide his opposition to the war. "I have strong reservations that the new doctrine of preemption does not meet the test of international law," he said. "I have strong reservations about the assertion in the resolution that Congress has 'fully authorized this war against Iraq.' I do not believe that Congress can cede or transfer its Constitutional power to declare war to any president of the United States.

Republican Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee argued otherwise. "This war is justified by our own laws, by international laws and by the laws of nature, which state that all people are created equal, and with the right to live in liberty," he said.

Republican Senator John McCain used the occasion to criticize the U.N. Security Council for not backing a draft resolution that would have authorized the U.S.-led military action.

"Our military fights to uphold the demands of the United Nations Security Council for Iraq's disarmament, even though some in that body shirked their own obligations to hold Iraq to account for its defiance," said Mr. McCain. "Our men and women fight so that the Iraqi people no longer live in terror, or have cause to believe as Americans believe, that liberty's blessings are not the prerogative of the lucky few, but the inalienable rights of all mankind."

For one lawmaker, Democratic Senator Tim Johnson of South Dakota, the war is especially personal. "As a father with a son serving as a sergeant in the 101st Airborne, now in the Iraqi theater, I understand the mix of pride and fear that family members are feeling at this time," he said.

Majority Leader Frist told reporters that Congressional leaders are expected to receive daily briefings on the progress of the war from administration officials.