WASHINGTON – Five of Maryland’s eight congressional representatives voted Thursday to authorize the use of military force against Iraq, mirroring the full House’s 296-133 vote in support of the measure.
The Maryland opponents were Democratic Reps. Ben Cardin and Elijah Cummings of Baltimore and Rep. Connie Morella of Bethesda, one of only a handful of Republicans to oppose the resolution.
Morella said on the floor that she made her decision as a mother of nine who had to be “certain that the strongest possible case has been made that the threat posed by Iraq rises to the level of risking the lives of tens of thousands of our young citizens.” She said that case has not been made by proponents of military action.
But Rep. Wayne Gilchrest, R-Kennedyville, said that administration briefings made clear that “given the chance (Iraqi President Saddam Hussein) will use his weapons of mass destruction against U.S. interests.”
“What must be done now is for the United States, the only country in the world that can do it, to take a leadership role at this time with the international community to remove Saddam Hussein from power and restore peace, life, hope and dignity,” said Gilchrest, a veteran who was wounded in Vietnam.
Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Frederick, said he was “disappointed” at the failure of a substitute resolution demanding that the president come back to Congress to for an additional on the use of force, if the United Nations fails to pass another resolution.
Bartlett, who was the last in the Maryland delegation to vote Thursday, said he finally voted for the resolution, “because I approve the use of America’s military in support of a new United Nations resolution” demanding that Hussein allow weapons inspectors into his country.
Bartlett said the resolution “is not a declaration of war” and he urged President Bush to “come back to Congress for an additional vote before he engages our military in a unilateral, pre-emptive attack against Saddam Hussein.”
Rep. Bob Ehrlich, R-Timonium, said he supported the resolution because “the consequences of American complacency are far greater than the consequences of responding to a clear and present danger.”
Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Mechanicsville, echoed Ehrlich’s argument.
“In the absence of international unity in confronting Hussein and his criminal regime, we must not be frozen into inaction in the face of a clear and present danger,” Hoyer said.
Cardin conceded the Hussein is “a dangerous individual” with stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, but said the resolution goes too far. He said it “represents a significant change in U.S. foreign policy that would have Congress authorizing unilateral, pre-emptive action.”
“Any resolution authorizing military action needs to be clear, specific and limited to the specific threat against our nation,” he said. “Unfortunately, the Bush resolution does not do that.”
The resolution authorizes the president to use the military against Iraq “as he determines necessary and appropriate” to defend the country and enforce U.N. resolutions. It requires that he advise Congress before taking any military action — or within 48 hours after the attacks start — and says he must report on the progress of the action at least every 60 days.
The Senate is expected to vote on the Iraq resolution before next week.