Vote totals appeared on the screen, in this image from video, as House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., announced that the House had passed a resolution today, authorizing President Bush to use military force against Iraq.

votes with minority
on Iraq vote

The House backs Bush
on the resolution, 296-133

By Jim Abrams
Associated Press

WASHINGTON >> The House today authorized war-making powers for President Bush, giving him the extra muscle he needs in his determination to free America and the world from what he says is the growing threat of Saddam Hussein's Iraq.

The 296-133 vote was a solid endorsement of Bush's insistence that he will work with the United Nations if possible, or alone if necessary, to disarm Saddam of his weapons of mass destruction. A majority of Democrats voted against the resolution even though their House leader, Dick Gephardt, was one of its authors.

President Bush hails House vote, says, "The days of Iraq acting like an outlaw state are coming to an end."

Hawaii Democratic Rep. Neil Abercrombie was among those who cast a negative vote for House Joint Resolution 114. Abercrombie is Hawaii's lone representative in the House after Rep. Patsy Mink's death.

Abercrombie termed the resolution a "blank check" allowing President Bush to launch a war against Iraq.

Reached by telephone in Washington, D.C., this morning, Abercrombie said he recognizes that "Saddam Hussein is a tyrant and that he is a dangerous enemy. The question is whether this resolution is the right way to address the threats presented by his regime." He said Bush has yet to prove his case.

"They have presented no credible evidence that the United States faces imminent attack. They have presented no credible evidence that Iraq was involved in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks or that it is giving material aid to those involved in those attacks," he said.

Abercrombie said he also is concerned about the strain on the military since the Pentagon said no increase in troop strength is needed to carry out an invasion and peacekeeping activities in Iraq. He said the personnel problem extends beyond the active military forces since the country has begun to depend heavily on the reserves and National Guard.

The Senate was prepared to act in chorus, rejecting by a 75-25 vote a bid by opponents to slow down a final vote and picking up the vital support of the Senate's top Democrat, Majority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota.

"It is only when the Iraqi dictator is certain of our willingness to wage war if necessary that peace becomes possible, said Rep. Tom Lantos, D-Calif.

Bush has stressed he has made no decision about using military force against Iraq. It could take months, once the decision is made, for the military to prepare for a strike.

With Congress behind him, Bush will press his case with the United Nations Security Council that it must approve a tough resolution holding Iraq to unfettered inspections and disarmament and promising force if Iraq does not comply.

House Democrats urged the president to work closely with the U.N. before going it alone against Iraq.

"Completely bypassing the U.N. would set a dangerous precedent that would undoubtedly be used by other countries in the future to our and the world's detriment," said Gephardt.

While concerns remained about the dangers of going to war against Iraq without a strong international coalition, today's vote showed stronger support for the president than his father, the George H.W. Bush, received in 1991. The House then voted 250-183 to endorse using American troops to drive Iraq from Kuwait.

Despite efforts by party leaders to defuse Iraq as a political issue four weeks before the election, 126 of the House's 208 Democrats voted against it.

The bipartisan agreement gives the president most of the powers he asked for, allowing him to act without going through the United Nations. But in a concession to Democratic concerns, it encourages him to exhaust all diplomatic means first and requires he report to Congress every 60 days if he does take action.

The House earlier rejected, by 270-155, the main challenge to the White House-backed resolution, a proposal backed by a majority of Democrats that obliged the president to return to Congress for a second vote on the use of force against Iraq.

Rep. John Spratt, D-S.C., said that without a multilateral approach, "this will be the United States vs. Iraq and in some quarters the U.S. vs. the Arab and the Muslim world."

The Senate, on a key test vote, choked off delaying tactics by a few Democratic opponents and made it all but certain that the Senate would pass the measure.

The Senate, which has been debating the measure for a week, was expected to approve it late today or early tomorrow.

Daschle's support brought him praise from the White House. "The president appreciates Senator Daschle's decision to vote with the president on this matter," Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer said.

Progress was slower on the diplomatic front, where three members of the U.N. Security Council -- France, Russia and China -- continued to hold out against a U.S.-British proposal sanctioning military action if Iraq does not comply with coercive inspections.

A telephone call between Bush and French President Jacques Chirac yesterday failed to yield a breakthrough over a new Security Council resolution to disarm Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. "This is intricate diplomacy and we are continuing our consultations," White House spokesman Sean McCormack said.

Star-Bulletin reporter Gregg K. Kakesako
contributed to this report.

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