Utah's two Democrats elected to Congress called again Wednesday for President Bush to launch no offensive war in the Persian Gulf without congressional approval.
Meanwhile, a caucus of all House Democrats did the same, as did lawyers for 54 Democrats - including Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah - in oral arguments in federal court seeking a formal injunction to prevent Bush from launching a war without permission.But Owens and Rep.-elect Bill Orton, D-Utah, said Congress has no need to meet quickly in a special session to consider giving such approval because U.N. resolutions do not sanction use of offensive force until after Jan. 15 anyway.
"Congress convenes on Jan. 3. It then is scheduled for a district work period until Jan. 23. But we could stay in Washington, or be called back quickly to act if necessary. So there's no real need for a special session now," Orton said.
House Democrats meeting in a closed-door caucus voted 177-37 Tuesday to approve a resolution insisting that Congress give "affirmative approval" before any military action is launched. It is not binding, but shows Bush the strength of sentiment among Democrats.
"I believe if there is military action, it is clear that the Constitution requires the president to come to Congress to do that," Orton said.
He said he "stands by the president" in actions he is now taking to hold meetings with Iraq to try to find a solution to the crisis. "Hopefully the first vote I take won't be on a declaration of war. It would be premature to vote on any resolutions at this time, and may be counterproductive to what the president is trying."
Owens also said he sees no need for a special session at the moment. But, "it's clear that the president needs approval from Congress before he launches an offensive war."
Owens, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, also left Wednesday on a trip to assess the situation in several Middle Eastern countries, including Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Oman, Yemen, the United Arab Emirates and possibly Saudi Arabia, he said.
Owens is also one of 54 liberal Democrats who sued Bush seeking a formal court injunction preventing him from attacking Iraq without approval from Congress.
In oral arguments before Federal District Judge Harold H. Greene on Tuesday, attorneys for the Democrats said their suit "is not about whether we should go to war, but who decides it."
"We have never had a situation in which a president has arrayed such a military force, threatened to attack another country, and say, `I do not need congressional authorization,' " said attorney Jules Lobel.
The Justice Department argued that no decision has been made to go to war and that Bush has troops in the Middle East only to keep the offensive military option open. Greene has taken the matter under advisement.