House approves Bush's Iraq war resolution

WASHINGTON -- The House voted 296-133 Thursday to give President Bush the broad authority he sought to use military force against Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein -- with or without U.N. support. The Senate was poised to do the same and to deliver Bush a major national security policy victory.

"The House of Representatives has spoken clearly to the world and to the United Nations Security Council: The gathering threat of Iraq must be confronted fully and finally," Bush said immediately after the vote.

Senate sponsors later succeeded in defeating all efforts to weaken the proposal, opening the way for a final vote early today. "It is clear that we have lost this battle in the Senate," said Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., the most outspoken Senate foe of the resolution. Byrd accused Congress of "handing the president unchecked authority."

While Bush hailed the strong showing, a majority of House Democrats voted against the resolution -- even though their leader, Dick Gephardt of Missouri, was one of its authors.

"The issue is how to best protect America. And I believe this resolution does that," Gephardt said.

The Senate was working on the same resolution, voting 75-25 to choke off delaying tactics and move toward a final vote expected in the wee hours today. It voted down a series of efforts to weaken or block the resolution, as did the House. Senate leaders of both parties predicted easy passage.

The administration got a big boost when Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle announced he was putting aside his misgivings to support the president.

"I believe it is important for America to speak with one voice," said Daschle, D-S.D. "It is neither a Democratic resolution nor a Republican resolution. It is now a statement of American resolve and values."

But some influential Democrats remained opposed.

"The power to declare war is the most solemn responsibility given to Congress by the Constitution," said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass. "We must not delegate that responsibility to the president in advance."