Military Attacks Bring Lawmakers Together in Support of Armed Forces

Posted March 20, 2003 at 2:51pm

As the mood grows tense in the Capitol, each chamber is set to take up a resolution supporting U.S. troops now waging war in Iraq.

In the Senate, lawmakers broke from the contentious budget debate to come together in a rare moment of comity to discuss the resolution.

“I am very proud that differences have been reconciled and this resolution bears both of your distinguished names,” said Senate Armed Services Chairman John Warner (R-Va.), directing his floor comments to Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and Minority Leader Thomas Daschle (D-S.D.). “We will strive to have unity in this chamber.”

Despite earlier opposition to the war from some Members, both Republicans and Democrats took to the cameras and issued statements throughout day expressing their of encouragement for, and solidarity with, American soldiers.

“Once our president makes the decision to commit troops, the Congress has always come together to speak with one voice for one purpose: to support the efforts of our troops and to pray for their courage, their success and their safe and quick return home,” Daschle said.

In the resolution, the Senate made a point to thank the allies who have joined the United States in trying to remove Saddam Hussein from power, particularly singling out British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his country “for their courageous and steadfast support.” In recent days, Blair has come under sharp criticism from doves in his country for backing the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

In addition, the resolution honors all the soldiers who died in Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm and those missing in action, including Navy Capt. Scott Speicher.

The resolution also honors “the thousands of Americans who have lost their lives in terrorist attacks over the years, and in the Global War on Terrorism.”

The Senate was expected to vote on the resolution late Thursday afternoon.

The House too is scheduled to take a breather from the budget debate around 4:30 p.m. to offer a similar resolution, though exactly what it would say had not been determined yet.

“Our prayers now shift to our men and women in America’s armed forces as they embark on a mission to bring peace to a troubled country,” House Republican Conference Chairwoman Deborah Pryce (Ohio) said in a statement. “We pray that their strength may guide them. And we all pray for a swift conclusion to their battle for freedom in Iraq.”

While Members were busy expressing their support, many aides and staffers felt anxious about what might happen in retaliation and wondered if the Capitol is a target. Some used humor to relieve pressure.

A woman buying “comfort food” — a chocolate candy bar — from the vending machine joked that her response is to “eat early and often” because one never knows what may happen.

People were on heightened alert for things out of the ordinary.

An office next to House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer’s (D) suite received a letter containing “suspicious” powder, which brought the bomb squad to the third floor and cut off the corridor leading into the Marylander’s office until experts determined it was nothing, Hoyer’s press secretary said.