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Congress Examines Proposed Language for Bush's Resolution on Iraq - 2002-09-20

Lawmakers have begun the process of assessing proposed language from President Bush for a resolution on Iraq. On initial reaction from Senate democrats to the White House's draft of a resolution that would authorize possible military action against Iraq. Senate democrats met late Thursday to discuss the proposed resolution sent to Capitol Hill earlier in the day.

Emerging from their meeting, lawmakers said they are treating the White House draft as just that "a document subject to discussion."

Several senators went further. Vermont's Patrick Leahy described the proposed language as "extraordinarily open-ended" adding that, in its current form, the draft is like a "blank check."

Louisiana democrat John Breaux also described the first draft as "overly-broad." Among his concerns, clarification of language authorizing the United States to act not only against the threat posed by Iraq, but to restore international peace and security in the region.

That language brought a stronger reaction from Senator Russ Feingold. Calling the draft "unacceptable" he said it would be irresponsible of Congress to endorse it.

However, every senator said the draft is the basis for negotiation. Joseph Biden, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he is confident this process will bring a result that is satisfactory to the American people.

But he says Congress expects the U.N. Security Council to act strongly and decisively.

"There is vast bipartisan support in the U.S. Senate, for a tough, demanding resolution out of the security council to hold Iraq accountable on the single most determinative concern, weapons of mass destruction," Mr. Biden said.

Senator Joseph Lieberman stated what he feels is the most important goal for Congress.

"To work together with democrats and republicans, here and with the White House, to achieve the broadest bipartisan support we can achieve, behind the President, as he continues to challenge the United Nations to enforce its resolutions, and as he continues to try and protect the world from Saddam Hussein," Mr. Lieberman said.

Senate majority leader Tom Daschle sought to play down differences between Congress and the White House, and between democrats and republicans. "There is absolutely no difference of opinion with regard to the threat that Saddam Hussein poses, and the need to address that threat in a multitude of ways, preferably through an international coalition and the United Nations," Mr. Daschle said.

Mr. Daschle says lawmakers have a long way to go in working on the draft resolution, adding that he expects this process to continue into next week.

That may not please the Administration, whose key spokesmen urged lawmakers this week to vote on a resolution of support, before the United Nations Security Council votes on its own resolutions.