Ohio Lawmakers Grapple With War Decision

By MALIA RULON, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) - Ohio Democrats spoke out Thursday against giving President Bush authority to use force against Iraq, while most of the state's Republican lawmakers said they support the idea or are undecided.

"Iraq is a grave and gathering threat, not an immediate threat. An immediate threat would be a trigger for war. We have time," said Rep. Marcy Kaptur, a Democrat from Toledo.

Kaptur and 25 other congressional Democrats, including Ohio Reps. Dennis Kucinich, Stephanie Tubbs Jones and Sherrod Brown, gathered at a news conference across the street from the Capitol on Thursday to denounce the president's request.

They argued there is no immediate reason to attack Iraq and urged Congress to adopt a plan instead encouraging diplomacy and economic sanctions to persuade Saddam Hussein to allow the United Nations arms inspectors into his country.

"Our military doctrine has been not to do pre-emptive strikes, but to use containment and deferment and diplomacy," said Brown, a Democrat from northeast Ohio. "There's no reason why we can't pursue that same policy here."

Congress is considering this week a resolution from Bush that would give the president broad authority to use military action to disarm Saddam. A vote on the measure was expected next week, after a planned visit to Cincinnati by President Bush.

"Now is not the time to handcuff the president," said Rep. Bob Ney, a Republican from St. Clairsville. "He needs every tool humanly possible to show this madman that we mean business."

Republican Reps. Rob Portman, John Boehner, Deb Pryce, Steve Chabot, Pat Tiberi, Mike Oxley and Paul Gillmor also said they were in full support of the resolution, which would give the president broad powers to use military force against Baghdad if he deems it necessary to defend national security interests or enforce U.N. resolutions regarding Iraq.

The resolution also includes several Democratic concessions, such as requiring Bush to report to Congress every 60 days on the situation with Iraq. He also would need to certify to Congress before a military strike or within 48 hours of an attack that diplomatic efforts were inadequate.

"The resolution they have produced is one that I expect Congress to endorse quickly and with vast support from both parties," said Boner, of West Chester.

Chabot, a member of the House International Relations Committee that approved the resolution 31-11 on Thursday, said there is bipartisan support for the bill because many members agree that Iraq's possession and acquisition of weapons of mass destruction poses an immediate and substantial threat.

"The president's request for congressional authorization to eliminate that threat is entirely appropriate," said Chabot, of Cincinnati. "As long as Saddam Hussein remains in power, the Middle East remains a potential powder keg and countless, innocent people throughout the world face imminent danger."

Reps. Dave Hobson, Steve LaTourette and Ralph Regula of Navarre, all Republicans, and Democratic Reps. Tom Sawyer and Ted Strickland, both Democrats, said they were still reviewing the president's proposed resolution.

Sens. Mike DeWine and George Voinovich, both Republicans, also had not yet announced a stance on the issue, although Voinovich said he was leaning toward supporting the measure.

Some concerns expressed include waging a war in Iraq while the country is still fighting a war against terrorism, and initiating military action without enough international support.

"I want to give the president the authority he needs, but neither do I want to shirk my responsibility to make sure the president uses every diplomatic effort available to deal with this problem diplomatically," said Strickland, of Lucasville.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)