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Senate Rejects Bid to Invoke War Powers Act

September 19, 1987|United Press International

WASHINGTON — The Senate on Friday rejected legislation that would have forced President Reagan to invoke the War Powers Act to allow Congress to decide if American warships and servicemen should stay in the Persian Gulf.

The Senate voted 50-41 to kill the amendment to the $303-billion defense authorization bill for 1988, which would have marked the first use of the statute adopted during the Vietnam War to curb a President's ability to launch military action.

The measure by Sens. Mark O. Hatfield (R-Ore.), and Brock Adams (D-Wash.), was billed as further "veto bait" by opponents. The 1973 law requires a President, once U.S. forces are introduced into an area of imminent hostilities, to report to Congress. The U.S. forces must be withdrawn if Congress does not declare war within 60 days or specifically authorize an extension.

The United States, at Kuwait's request, re-registered 11 tankers under the U.S. flag and in July began providing escorts to those ships in the Persian Gulf. Kuwait's shipping had come under attack from Iranian forces because of Kuwait's support for Iraq in the seven-year Iran-Iraq War.

There are now 41 U.S. vessels in the gulf or in the nearby Indian Ocean, with about 17,000 servicemen involved in or supporting the escort operation.

Adams termed the gulf a "free fire zone" and added, "It is just absurd to say that we are not involved in hostilities in the Persian Gulf . . . . It is intolerable that we should be in this situation as a result of a unilateral presidential decision, a decision undertaken without congressional consent and without meaningful consultation."

Sen. Jesse Helms, (R-N.C.), who termed the move "veto bait," countered, "The issue is, 'Does the United States really want to be the kind of nation that cuts and runs?' "

"No one here is advocating that we 'cut and run,' Adams responded. . . . But we are advocating congressional involvement."

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