WASHINGTON – Fox News has obtained the latest draft of Congress' proposed resolution authorizing President Bush to use force against Iraq.
Democrats are continuing to resist giving Bush all the powers he wants to wage war against Iraq, and one senior Republican said some give-and-take is necessary. "I still remain," said House Majority Leader Dick Armey, "the toughest sell in this town."
Meanwhile, Amir al-Saadi, an adviser to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, told a news conference in Baghdad, "The U.N. weapons inspectors would have unfettered access and [can go] wherever they want to go." He added that he expected them to be in Iraq in mid-October.
The working draft of Congress' resolution is a work in progress and is likely to change, but it shows where the bipartisan, bicameral leadership is heading.
The key phrase in the draft revision now reads:
"The president is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate means including force, in order to defend the national security interests of the United States against the threat posed by Iraq. The president is further authorized to use all necessary and appropriate means including force, in order to enforce the applicable United Nations Security Council resolutions specified in subsection (b) to restore international peace and security in the region."
The original version proposed to Congress by the White House read:
"The president is authorized to use all means that he determines to be appropriate including force in order to enforce the United Nations Security Council resolutions referenced above; defend the national security interests of the United States against the threat posed by Iraq and restore international peace and security in the region."
The most significant change in the wording of the passage -- which critics had called too broad -- was to limit the president's authority to act "in the region" to the authority granted by U.N. Security Council resolutions.
The congressional resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq is being drafted by the "Big Four" -- the two leaders of each party in each chamber -- Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt, D-Mo., and Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss.
There are at least two other versions circulating among lawmakers, but Democratic and Republican sources confirm that the version Fox News has obtained is the one from which they are currently working.
The revisions include several passages that will spark controversy.
The new draft would require the president to report back to Congress every 60 days on the progress of the use of military force.
The new draft also says, "Nothing in this joint resolution supersedes any requirement of the War Powers Resolution."
Both parties have promised prompt action on the resolution while bickering over the wording.
Daschle said there was wide support among Democrats for a more multinational approach to reducing Iraq's threats to the world.
"I can't believe any member of Congress with good conscience could give such a broad delegation of authority to any president," said Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill.
Two House Democrats, Jim McDermott of Washington and David Bonior of Michigan, said they would leave Wednesday for a weekend visit to Iraq.
Bush said he was confident Democrats would support him.
"I believe you'll see, as we work to get a strong resolution out of Congress, that a lot of Democrats are willing to take the lead when it comes to keeping the peace," he told reporters after a Cabinet meeting.
Later, he said he was determined to "not let the challenges that we face go unheeded."
"The military is not our first choice," Bush told a Republican fund-raiser. "But if we have to, and when we succeed, the world will thank the United States and our friends and allies for making our world more secure and more peaceful."
On Tuesday, armed services and foreign relations committees offered their suggestions to leaders from both parties, who in turn were negotiating with White House officials on how the resolution should be worded. The House International Relations Committee offered a formal document making clear that the United Nations should be involved in ensuring regional peace and security.
Armey, R-Texas, one of the few Republicans to publicly express doubts about going to war against Iraq, said it was normal that the president sought "maximum latitude" in his original proposal. Armey said he was confident the two sides ultimately would "come out of the process with a very broad consensus."
Armey said he met Tuesday with Vice President Dick Cheney and expected to meet later this week with Defense Secretary Donald. H. Rumsfeld and CIA Director George Tenet to hear why they thought it was necessary to debilitate Saddam. "I am still not prepared to say how I will vote on the resolution when it is brought to the floor," Armey said.
Earlier Tuesday, a former Iraqi nuclear physicist who defected in 1994 told a House hearing that he did not believe Iraq was turning to the black market for nuclear materials, as feared, to gain a nuclear capability within months.
"Iraq's program is more serious," Khidhir Hamza told a House Government Reform subcommittee. "It is meant to produce an arsenal of nuclear weapons, not just one," a process that could take two or three years, he said.
Democratic Rep. Janice Schakowsky of Illinois asked the panel why the administration was focusing on Iraq and not other insecure nuclear facilities around the globe. "By concentrating our efforts on Iraq, it is getting harder to convince the world that this is just about weapons of mass destruction, not domestic politics or oil or revenge."
Durbin also asked whether it was "White House strategy to drag this debate out indefinitely to get this as close to the election as possible so the White House ... does not have to face the reality of an economy that is flat on its back."
"This is a serious deal," Armey said on Democratic claims the White House was trying to avert attention from the faltering economy before the election. "You are talking about war and peace, national security. I am personally not capable of looking at that through a political prism."
Fox News' Carl Cameron and the Associated Press contributed to this report.