The White House on Tuesday predicted President Bush would win congressional support for using force against Iraq, but some Democrats made it clear they would fight any move to take the country to war.
"Before we ask Americans to die for the liberation of Kuwait, I want to be sure we have tried every possible alternative," Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Claiborne Pell, D-R.I., said. "So far, this has not been the case."At the same time, the Bush administration was working with lawmakers to draft a resolution that could come to a vote late this week giving new credibility to the president's threat to use force to drive Iraq from Kuwait.
While no decision had been made on whether to ask for a declaration of war or something short of that, "it would certainly be logical" to press Congress in that direction, said one senior administration official.
"We're working with members" of Congress on legislation granting such support, said White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater. "We think they'll support him."
The House and Senate are expected to begin deliberations Thursday that likely will lead to a stark choice for lawmakers: whether to back up the president's threat or to risk deflating it.
Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, D-Maine, said Tuesday that it would be inappropriate for Bush to seek "blank check" permission from Congress to go to war whenever he sees fit. Rather, Bush should wait until he has made the decision to go to war, then come to Congress for its approval, Mitchell said.
While the White House was claiming majority support on Capitol Hill, Mitchell said it would be impossible to predict the outcome until it is clearer what lawmakers will be voting on and what alternatives they might be presented with.
House Speaker Thomas Foley, D-Wash., said Monday that the House will vote on the president's gulf policy Friday or Saturday. Senate procedures make the timing less certain there, but Mitchell said he wants a vote before the Jan. 15 deadline for Iraq's pullout from Kuwait.
Both Foley and Mitchell have staked out positions at odds with Bush's desire for a quick, clean vote of confidence from Congress.