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TIMES SURVEY : Congress Split on Giving Bush Its Vote for War

January 11, 1991|PAUL HOUSTON and DWIGHT MORRIS | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Cox, Dannemeyer and Dornan strongly endorsed the President's moves, while Rohrabacher said he "somewhat" approves of the way the President has acted.

The President was given lesser marks, however, for his job of explaining why he ordered the massive deployment of troops. Only 24 Democrats said he has done an excellent or good job, while 133 called it fair or poor. Seventy-five Republicans answered excellent to good, and 24 said fair to poor.

On other questions, Democrats overwhelmingly supported, and Republicans almost as decisively rejected, the notion that Bush must ask Congress to declare war before he orders military action. Breaking ranks with the GOP majority was Dannemeyer, who went so far as to say that he would support a cutoff of all funding for U.S. troops in the gulf if the President failed to ask congressional authorization for military action. He said he believes that the Constitution bars the President from taking military action without specific congressional authorization.

Members of both parties strongly oppose linking a resolution of the crisis with a settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as demanded by Hussein and strenuously opposed by Bush. The only lawmakers supporting linkage were seven House Democrats.

By the narrow margin of 98 to 89, lawmakers thought that it would be necessary to maintain a large military presence in the Middle East, even if Iraq pulls its troops out of Kuwait.

The legislators also overwhelmingly rejected, 161 to 36, a proposal by some Democratic leaders to impose an income tax surcharge to pay for the burgeoning costs of Operation Desert Shield, the multinational deployment of troops in the gulf.

They said they believe that Britain is the only U.S. ally paying a fair share of those costs. Accused of contributing too little were Japan, Germany, France, Saudi Arabia and the exiled government of Kuwait.

The survey suggested that while Democrats are not anxious to give the President all the war-making authority he wants, they are struggling to find compromise language that would enable him to present a united front to Hussein.

For example, House Democrats strongly oppose a declaration of war at this time, and less strongly oppose giving Bush authorization to take whatever military action he deems necessary. But they are closely divided on whether to forbid the President to take action until sanctions are given more time to work. An analysis of these responses indicates that about one-third of House Democrats could wind up supporting the legislation that Bush seeks.

Republicans displayed a strongly hawkish face in the survey. Not only did they say in large numbers (102 to 6) that they would vote to authorize the President to use military force, they also declared in similar numbers (74 to 12) that they would support a declaration of war.

Only a handful of Democrats (23 of 229) said they would vote to declare war if Hussein "indicates no intention of withdrawing Iraqi troops from Kuwait."

But some Republicans suggested that their support of a war authorization is only a tactical move aimed at putting pressure on Hussein and that Congress would have an opportunity later to control U.S. military action.

"The best chance we have to reach a peaceful conclusion is for the President to have the strongest possible hand, made possible by a largely unified voice coming from the American government," said California Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Redlands), his party's third-ranking House member. "I feel strongly there will be plenty of time in the weeks ahead to talk about the constitutional responsibilities" of Congress to commit the nation to war.

Senate Majority Leader George J. Mitchell (D-Me.) declined to participate in the survey because "we don't do questionnaires," according to his press secretary, Diane Dewhirst.

Although Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole (R-Kan.) has insisted for months that Congress debate whether to give the President war-making authority, he responded to the Times questionnaire only on condition that his answers be kept confidential.

Of 64 senators and 300 House members who responded, 249 agreed to be on the record, including House Majority Leader Richard A. Gephardt (D-Mo.) and Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.), his party's ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Staff writers Marlene Cimons, Don Shannon, Maura Reynolds and Robert W. Stewart and researchers Keating Holland, Murielle Gamache, Stephanie Grace, Randi Rothstein and Nicole Morris contributed to this report.

THE GULF DEBATE IN CONGRESS

\o7 The Los Angeles Times Washington bureau polled members of the Senate and the House of Representatives between Jan. 4 and Thursday. Sixty\f7 -\o7 four of the 100 Senators and 300 of the 435 House members responded.\f7 If today were Jan. 16, would you vote for or against: A declaration of war against Iraq if Saddam Hussein indicates no intention of withdrawing Iraqi troops from Kuwait?

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