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Congress rallies behind Bush, but some Democrats accuse him of bungling
By Jon Frandsen
Updated 9:30 p.m.
WASHINGTON - Congress rallied behind President Bush on Monday as he gave Saddam Hussein one last chance, but some Democrats did so begrudgingly and accused Bush of bringing the nation to the brink of war through blundering diplomacy.
"I'm saddened that the president failed so miserably at diplomacy that we are forced to war," Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., said just hours before he and other congressional leaders met at the White House with Bush and his top war planners.
"I'm saddened that we have to give up one life because the president couldn't create the kind of diplomatic effort that was so critical to our country," Daschle said in a speech to a public employees union.
Daschle told reporters that he still supported the use of force and did not regret voting in October to give Bush broad authority to use it. But the Senate?s top Democrat said he believes "our failure diplomatically" will make the mission riskier and more difficult because U.S. troops would be acting with little international support.
"Nonetheless ? we?ve got to make the most with what circumstances we face, and I am sure that is what the government will do," he said.
Marc Racicot, chairman of the Republican National Committee, lashed back. "As President Bush, our commander in chief, addresses the grave and serious threats we face at home and abroad, it is disheartening and shameful for Senator Daschle, who has previously advocated and authorized the use of force in Iraq, to now blame America first.
"I urge all Americans to reject such divisive and brazen political posturing," Racicot said.
But while few spoke as harshly as Daschle, many Democrats and some Republicans who sided with Bush repeated concerns that missteps throughout the winter made a broad coalition more difficult to achieve. They also said these missteps have made a difficult war and postwar occupation even riskier because the United States will be acting largely alone.
Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., said officials told him there was a plan in place for securing and administering Iraq after the fighting ends, but said he was still not satisfied because there were no specifics. He said he was worried that U.S. troops could be changed from "liberators to an occupying power."
Biden, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he had been assured "that if there is a second speech required - that is a go-to-war speech - (postwar plans) will be laid out" in far greater detail.
Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia, a top opponent of going to war without U.N. backing, also attended the White House meeting since he is the top Democrat on the committee that will be asked to approve the administration?s request for paying the war?s bills.
"I fully support our troops who have been sent to Iraq," Byrd said, adding that he will support funding requests for the war. He promised, however, to fight requests for "grandiose schemes" to bring democracy to the entire region, which he said would go far beyond the already difficult mission before the United States.
The first of what could be several emergency funding requests could arrive on Capitol Hill as early as next week, lawmakers said, but the administration has yet to offer an estimate of a war?s cost. Many in Congress expect the bill to top $100 billion.
Republicans and some Democrats expressed pride in Bush.
"The president has shown great patience and given diplomacy every chance to work, but as he stated tonight, the time to act has arrived," said Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn.
Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., said, "The president has shown remarkable restraint and I support his decision to go forward in the hopes of ultimately bringing freedom and peace to the people of Iraq."
(Contributing: Dennis Camire, GNS)