President Bush today lobbied intensely for congressional approval to use military force to oust Iraq from Kuwait. The White House said Bush is “taking nothing for granted,” and it was unclear whether he had the votes in either chamber.
“The last, best chance for Saddam Hussein to get the message is in your hands,” Bush told lawmakers.
Bush courted support as the House and Senate resumed debate, with votes likely over the weekend.
Sen. Sam Nunn (D-Ga.) , stating the case against authorizing force, asked: “What guarantees do we have that war will be brief, American casualties will be light? No one can say whether war will last five days, five weeks or five months.”
Nunn’s speech was interrupted by protesters in the visitors gallery who began chanting “No war for Bush!” They were ejected.
Bush began his day by meeting with about 125 House Republicans and Democrats. He told them that the world is at a crossroads and that they face an historic vote, White House Press Secretary Marlin Fitzwater recounted.
“The President said that nobody wants war and that he’s still hopeful for a peaceful resolution, but the outcome of the Baker-Aziz meeting did not leave a great deal of room for hope,” Fitzwater said, referring to the failed talks in Geneva between Iraqi Foreign Minister Tarik Aziz and Secretary of State James A. Baker III.
In the Senate, Democrat Harry Reid of Nevada said he will support Bush. “All the evidence shows that the Iraqis are stalling for time while they improve their defenses and attempt to destroy our coalition,” Reid said.
“It would be very helpful if the Congress would move and support the U.N. resolution,” Bush told reporters at the White House, referring to the U.N. resolution that authorizes use of force to remove Iraqi forces from Kuwait.
Earlier, Bush pressed his case at a breakfast meeting with a large group of House members who braved a snowstorm to attend. White House aides said that more than 100 from both parties, including many undecided, had been invited but that the weather cut attendance.