Inouye at centerWASHINGTON >> U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye emerged at the center of an impassioned Senate session yesterday, with Democrats firing back at President Bush for accusing the Senate of not caring about national security.
of political fight
The Senator replies to criticismFlap may delay Iraq vote
the president leveled at
Democrats the previous day
Reporter decries Bush secrecy
By Jim Abrams
Majority Leader Tom Daschle demanded that Bush apologize to Hawaii's senior Democrat and other war veterans in the Senate. Inouye followed with a rare off-the-cuff Senate speech, declaring his concern for America, lamenting the possibility of war against Iraq and accusing Bush of being divisive.
"It grieves me when my president makes statements that would divide this nation. I can assure you, Mr. President, this is not a time for Democrats and Republicans to say we got more medals than you, we've lost more limbs than you, we've shed more blood than you. This is not the time for that," Inouye said, returning to the Senate after a day at home with a mild illness.
"This is a time when we should be working together, debating this issue," Inouye said. "It is American to question the president. It is American to debate this issue."
Daschle challenged Bush to tell Inouye, who lost his right arm in a World War II battle, that he was not concerned about the security of the American people.
"The president ought to apologize to Sen. Inouye and every veteran who has fought in every war who is a Democrat in the U.S. Senate," Daschle said in a Senate floor speech.
The quote Daschle cited came during a visit that Bush made earlier this week in Trenton, N.J., referring to Senate debate on homeland security. In a speech the president said, "The House responded, but the Senate is more interested in special interests in Washington and not interested in the security of the American people."
Bush was referring to debate over a homeland security bill, but Daschle, Inouye and Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., all took his words to apply to the debate over an invasion of Iraq as well as the security bill.
Inouye spokeswoman Sandy Skousen said he had no prepared text for his speech. Recalling his questioning of the Persian Gulf War, Inouye noted that war ended before moving into Baghdad, where there would have been "many, many, many body bags."
Inouye cautioned that war in Iraq would be fought by soldiers older than those who fought alongside him in World War II. In his regiment, Inouye said, only 4 percent of the soldiers had wives or children.
Today, he said, 77 percent of the men and women in the military have spouses.
"I think we should be concerned about their sensitivities," Inouye said.
Inouye noted that the Senate appropriations defense subcommittee, which he chairs, unanimously approved $356 billion for defense. This was done in the belief that "in order to avoid war, we should be prepared for war.
"I'm concerned about the security of this country," Inouye said. "I'm concerned about what history will say about this nation 50 years from now. Did we brutalize people, or did we carry on ourselves as civilized people?"
Inouye echoed Byrd, saying, "To attack a nation that has not attacked us will go down in history as something that we should not be proud of."
The Hawaii senator said he supports Bush as his president and was saddened by his criticism of the Democratically controlled Senate.
Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., criticized Daschle, Inouye and Byrd for their statements, asking, "Who is the enemy here, the president of the United States or Saddam Hussein?"
Sen. Daniel Inouye
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WASHINGTON >> Democratic leaders in Congress, angered by President Bush's criticism, said today that lawmakers may not be ready to vote next week on a resolution authorizing war against Iraq.
Political snit may hold up
resolution on Iraq
Democrats, still angry over
Bush's tactics, say a vote might
not take place next week
Bush struck a more conciliatory stance and said, "Soon we will speak with one voice," as he stressed the dangers of delay in reaching a unified approach on Iraq.
"Each passing day could be one on which the Iraqi regime gives anthrax or VX nerve gas or someday a nuclear weapon to a terrorist ally," Bush said.
The president also sought to defuse the anger of Democrats who contend that Bush and other Republicans are using the crisis with Iraq for political advantage, saying, "The security of our country is the commitment of both political parties and the responsibility of both elected branches of government."
Bush made progress today on the diplomatic front, reaching agreement with Britain on a tough U.N. resolution on Iraq that will be presented to the other three permanent members of the U.N. Security Council -- France, China and Russia.
The proposed text would declare Iraq in violation of past U.N. resolutions on disarmament, lay out a path for Iraq to meet its disarmament obligations and say there will be consequences if Iraq does not comply.
Bush said progress was being made on writing a resolution under which Congress would give him the authority to use military force against Iraq.
Under a White House proposal circulating on Capitol Hill and obtained by The Associated Press, the president could use military force against Iraq to defend U.S. national security interests. The president must tell Congress -- before or after the use of force -- why diplomatic means were not adequate to protect those interests. It removes a phrase from the White House's original proposal, which Democrats said was too broad, that extended the authority to the region around Iraq.
Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., was less sanguine than Bush on prospects for agreement. He said Republicans had "made it much more difficult" to reach a consensus by politicizing the Iraqi issue and he was now unsure the resolution could reach the Senate floor by next week as planned.
In a speech on the Senate floor yesterday, Daschle demanded that Bush apologize for comments he made earlier this week in which he said that the Democratic-controlled Senate, in failing to pass legislation to create a Homeland Security Department, was "not interested in the security of the American people."
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