The purest anti-war stance was taken by Sen. Mark O. Hatfield (R-Ore.), who voted against both the resolution authorization force and the Democratic alternative urging continued reliance on sanctions. He pleaded with Bush to pull U.S. forces out of the Persian Gulf.
"This is not a war we--as a nation--are prepared to fight," Hatfield cautioned. "Not for oil or pride or anything else. Not now. Not ever. We may have the firepower, but we do not have the will."
Yet Hatfield was by no means the only speaker who emphasized the horrors of war.
Sen. Alan J. Dixon (D-Ill.) told of how his neighbor had learned of the death of a son. Even before he was informed, he screamed aloud when he spied a uniformed military courier approaching him: "My God, they've killed my son!"
Like many, Rep. Mary Rose Okar (D-Ohio) warned that an attack on Iraq could spark a conflagration in the Middle East. "There will be no surgical strike against Saddam Hussein--there will be a world war of untold dimensions," she said.
Although the resolution was not worded as a formal war declaration, Rep. Dante Fascell (D-Fla.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, reminded members that the effect could be the same.
"You are empowering the President to use the awesome military might of the United States," he said. "There's no doubt about it and there's no tomorrow about it."
Bush has never conceded he needs congressional approval to go to war, even though the Constitution invests in Congress the right to declare war. Democrats and Republicans saw Saturday's vote as a reassertion of congressional prerogatives, and the House underscored that point by voting 301 to 131 for a resolution restating the language of the Constitution.