Rep. Bill Orton, D-Utah, said he searched his mind and soul for a week on whether to support President Bush in the gulf conflict - and even questioned Bush personally Friday.
And when Orton stood at 11 p.m. Friday to give his first-ever speech on the House floor - on an issue that may be the most important he will ever face - it was to support Bush."In the final analysis, the success of the president's diplomatic strategy requires the credible threat of force," Orton said with a voice that sometimes trembled. "I will give President Bush my trust and my vote and my prayers."
That came as debate continued in Congress on whether to allow Bush to use all force necessary to push Iraq from Kuwait, or to give economic sanctions more time to work. Votes are expected on Saturday.
Head counts by parties suggest that Bush is building a comfortable majority in the House through heavy lobbying, but the vote in the Senate could still be decided by just one vote, with Republicans keeping open the option to filibuster.
Sen. Bennett Johnston, D-La., said, "I believe this die is cast. I believe Saddam Hussein - if you don't leave Kuwait - we're going to attack, and we're going to attack in January."
"All the indications are that he (Bush) will win this vote," Sen. Sam Nunn, D-Ga., said.
Three Democrats - Sens. Howell Heflin, D-Ala., Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., and Charles Robb, D-Va., - were among the main sponsors of the GOP resolution.
Sens. Harry Reid, R-Nev., John Breaux, D-La., Richard Shelby, D-Ala., Richard Bryan, D-Nev., and Johnston are also backing Bush. Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla., might line up with the president as well.
Senate Republicans expected only one defector from their ranks of 44 - Sen. Mark Hatfield, R-Ore., who said he might not vote for any resolution.
In the Utah delegation, Sens. Orrin Hatch and Jake Garn, R-Utah - as well as Orton - support the president's position.
But Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, attacked it Friday, saying war now would only send young men to die for old men's honor. Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah, continued to refuse Deseret News inquiries about his stand on the issue, but he almost always supports Bush.
Rep. Bill Orton
Orton had agonized the most among delegation members about his decision.
"I am deeply troubled today as I begin my service in the House of Representatives. I can't imagine having to make a more difficult and more agonizing vote," Orton told the House.
"I have searched my mind and my soul and have reached a decision which I pray is correct. Ironically, I have concluded that a vote against the president's authority to conduct war would almost certainly result in war. It would embolden Saddam Hussein and would not prevent President Bush from acting without congressional authority.
"On the other hand, a vote granting the president authority to conduct war might be the last hope for peace. By exhibiting unity of American resolve, Saddam might realize the futility of his actions and withdraw," Orton said.
Orton, however, criticized the president somewhat, questioning his "decision in November doubling the number of American troops in the gulf and setting the Jan. 15 deadline for Iraqi withdrawal.
"This shift from a defensive to an offensive posture by American forces in the gulf has embarked this nation upon a high-risk gambit which I would not have chosen," Orton said.
Rep. Wayne Owens
Owens was much more severe in his criticism of Bush. "It is the administration's own ineptitude which has placed us in this intolerable situation," Owens said of the growing prospect of war.
In Owens' Friday speech on the House floor, he told how he was first elected in 1972 on a promise to help end the Vietnam War, and how he remembers shedding tears of joy and gratitude when he voted with the House to cut off funds for that war in 1973.
"I promised myself then that I would never vote for a war where America's vital interests were not at risk, or where there was an honorable alternative," he said.
"That economic and political solution is available, I believe, in sanctions, and my vote will therefore be against giving the president the authority to go to war at this point."
He noted that Winston Churchill said that war is where young men are sent to die for old men's honor, and said that perfectly "reflects my own cynicism about our generation making this fateful decision for those 20 and 30 years our junior . . .
"It is their future, and whether they will have one, balanced against the national and human values to be won." He feels that by that measurement, war is not yet needed.
He added that if "my vote to keep consistency with my judgment and my conscience by disagreeing with the commander in chief costs me the opportunity to sit in this body, so be it. I am at peace with that issue."