Bush to Brief Hill Leaders Monday Afternoon; Congress’ Next Step Is to Finance the War

Posted March 17, 2003 at 1:50pm

Before addressing the nation Monday night, President Bush will update Congressional leaders on his plans for Iraq.

Bush will meet at 5:45 p.m. with Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and Senate Minority Leader Thomas Daschle (D-S.D.), their aides said.

Half an hour later, the president is scheduled to meet with the chairmen and ranking members of key committees, including as both chambers’ Armed Services and International Relations panels.

The American public will likely know shortly thereafter whether Bush plans to forcefully remove Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein from power; the president will deliver a televised speech at 8 p.m. in which he is expected to give Hussein an ultimatum.

After another weekend of massive worldwide protests and rallies, both for and against a possible war, Congress shows no sign of entering the debate again.

Leaders in each chamber say Congress had its say when it approved the “use of force” resolution last fall and that to reopen the question now, on the eve of war, would only serve to undermine the troops.

It is now time for the country to speak with “one voice,” DeLay said last week, calling remarks by Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) and other Democrats questioning the timing of a war “extreme” and “insensitive.”

That didn’t stop five Democratic House Members — Reps. Lloyd Doggett (Texas), Barney Frank (Mass.), Charlie Rangel (N.Y), Jay Inslee (Wash.) and Hilda Solis of (Calif.) — from asking DeLay to appoint five Republicans to debate the merits of going to war last Thursday; their efforts were rebuffed.

But at least one Democratic presidential hopeful spoke up Monday in support of going to war.

“For 12 years and through the 17 [United Nations] Security Council resolutions, Saddam has flouted the will of the world and refused to disclose and destroy the weapons of mass destruction that the United Nations has asserted are in his possession,” Sen. Joe Lieberman (Conn.) said. “If military action is necessary, the fault will clearly be Saddam’s.”

That being said, Lieberman blamed Bush for squandering the world’s goodwill toward the United States and making it more likely that if there is a war, America will have few allies.

“And it will result in part from the Bush administration’s unilateralist, divisive diplomacy, which has pushed a lot of the world away from us and this just and necessary cause,” he said.

Lieberman echoed most Congressional leaders in saying Congress has participated in debate and made up its mind in regards to Iraq.

“Congress has spoken on this matter, and we have spoken clearly,” he said.

The legislative branch is more likely to address the war in the context of cost.

The Senate began debate on the 2004 budget resolution — which does not include war funding — Monday. The House will debate it later this week.

Some Democrats have said passing a budget resolution that does not account for the war would be a waste of time, but Republican leaders seem determined to push it through quickly.

Even Lieberman did not seem concerned, saying such costs would be considered separately in a supplemental appropriations bill if and when the country goes to war.