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Congress Likely to Vote Thursday on Iraq Resolution - 2002-10-10

Votes are expected later Thursday in Congress on the Iraq war resolution President Bush wants, to give him the authority to take pre-emptive military action against Iraq.

Although the president continues to be criticized by Democrats and some Republicans, for how he has dealt with Congress on the Iraq issue, the administration drive to win support for the resolution is succeeding.

Nevertheless, Democrats in the House and Senate are trying to head off seeming inevitable votes in favor of the White House-backed resolution by proposing identical substitute resolutions.

Democrat Carl Levin is the chief Senate sponsor of a resolution to authorize U.S. military action only with a strong, new U.N. Security Council Resolution. If the president determines that to be insufficient, Mr. Bush would have to seek a separate vote by Congress to use force.

Senator Levin stressed his alternative avoids the potential damage of a U.S. "go it alone" approach.

"If we act wisely, authorizing the use of our forces pursuant to a U.N. resolution authorizing member states to use force, we will not only unite the Congress, but ultimately we will unite the world community," he said.

An almost identical version of this alternate resolution will be voted on in the House Thursday. Its sponsor, South Carolina Democrat John Spratt, pointed out even if it loses, as expected, it will have an impact.

He said, "I think 135 to 150 votes would send a strong message to the White House about sentiment of a substantial group of members in the House, and it might also have an impact on how the Senate votes."

President Bush gained support Wednesday from another key Democrat, Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts. But Joseph Biden, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee had these words of caution. "No matter how well formulated a foreign policy is, it cannot be sustained without the informed, the informed, the informed consent of the American people," he said. "And what is being asked of them? The American people do not know what is going to be asked of them yet!"

Senate and House debate continued late into Wednesday evening. The Senate will vote Thursday morning on a motion to end debate, and barring last-minute delaying tactics by a key Democrat, Robert Byrd, could vote on Thursday, as will the House.