WASHINGTON – A group of Senate Democrats is attempting to delay war by offering a non-binding resolution that asks President Bush to give the United Nations more time for the inspections process to operate.
Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., led several Senators Wednesday, including Paul Sarbanes of Maryland, Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico, Dianne Feinstein of California and Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, in introducing a resolution urging that U.N. weapons inspectors be given sufficient time to complete their work. The measure also calls for Bush to seek a U.N. resolution authorizing the use of force before initiating any offensive military operation against Iraq.
Going to war "is not a decision for the United States to make unilaterally," Byrd said, adding that as long as Iraq is not "actively threatening" its neighbors or the United States, "I believe we have a duty to the American people to strive to find an alternative to war."
If war is needed, it should be authorized by Congress and sanctioned by member states of the United Nations, Byrd said.
Following close to Byrd, Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., offered a second resolution asking the president to seek congressional approval if he decides to move against Iraq.
One month prior to the midterm election in November, Senate lawmakers voted 77-23 to support an Iraq resolution that gives the president the authority to "obtain prompt and decisive action by the Security Council to ensure that Iraq abandons its strategy of delay, evasion, and noncompliance."
If Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein did not abandon its strategy, the president would then be "authorized to use the armed forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in order to defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq; and enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq."
The House passed the same resolution 296-133.
During the State of the Union address on Tuesday night, Bush laid out a litany of charges against Saddam and vowed not to allow him to continue to evade U.N. demands that he disarm.
"If Saddam Hussein does not fully disarm, for the safety of our people, and for the peace of the world, we will lead a coalition to disarm him," he said.
On Wednesday, at a speech in Grand Rapids, Mich., the president repeated the pledge.
"Should [the United Nations] not choose to pressure Saddam and should he continue to defy the world, for the sake of our peace, for the sake of the security, this country will lead a coalition of other willing nations and we will disarm Saddam Hussein," Bush said. "We will commit the full force and might of the United States military and in the name of peace, we will prevail."
Two snap polls show that Bush's explanation of Iraqi violations during the State of the Union address convinced many Americans of the need to act.
In a Gallup poll, 67 percent of those questioned said the president had made a convincing case for U.S. military action against Iraq. That's up 20 points from a poll taken just before the speech.
A CBS poll showed a 10 point post-speech bump. Seventy-seven percent of those questioned approve of U.S. military action to remove Saddam.
But on Capitol Hill, Democratic lawmakers, largely aware that they are not in charge of the Senate and that a non-binding resolution will not have much impact, continued to demonstrate their discomfort with a renegade approach and questioned whether it was a good idea.
"Nothing in the report suggests that war is the only option to disarm Saddam. Clearly the inspections should continue," said Kennedy.
But Bush does have support from critical corners. A former Navy pilot and Vietnam prisoner of war, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., pointed out that on this issue, the Senate has already spoken and given the president full authority.
"That debate is over. I repeat, that debate is over," McCain said.
"Our president has shown courage, he has shown clarity, he has shown focus in his efforts to rid the world of terrorists and others who are threats to freedom," said Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn.
The Senate's top Democrat did not join either resolution, but has expressed doubts about the administration's position on Iraq.
"The president has not adequately laid out to the American people or the international community why our top priority, in light of the other ones, ought to be war with Iraq," Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., said.
Fox News' Brian Wilson contributed to this report.