Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Tracy, has cast thousands of legislative votes in his lengthy political career. However, next week's vote on House Joint Resolution 110 will be anything but routine for Pombo and other members of the 107th Congress.
Indeed, it could be the most fateful decision of any congress member's time in office.
"Any time you cast a vote that is going to put our nation's military in harm's way, it is an extremely difficult vote," said Pombo, who represents the 11th District, which covers most of San Joaquin County, the East Bay and parts of the Monterey Bay area.
"I don't believe any member of Congress wants to cast this vote, but you get in a situation where you have to protect the United States."
The bill, cited as the Liberation of the Iraqi People Resolution, gives President Bush authorization to use armed forces against Iraq, but only when he meets certain "conditions of authority."
The provisions call for Bush to:
- Certify that Iraq is, in fact, obtaining weapons of mass destruction, and to prove that it poses a threat to the United States.
- Exhaust all peaceful means to a obtain Iraq's compliance with United Nations Security Council Resolutions.
The bill, endorsed by House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt, D-Mo., is expected to pass both houses of Congress with overwhelming bipartisan support.
Pombo said he is one of the many who will cast an "Aye" vote.
The decision, he said, is based on his belief that Saddam Hussein is a threat to the United States.
"We need to give the president the authority to step in and try to eliminate that threat," Pombo said.
Meanwhile, Rep. Doug Ose, R-Sacramento, said he will also vote in favor of the bill.
"My greatest responsibility as a member of Congress is to protect America against all enemies, foreign or domestic," said Ose, whose district includes Galt. "This responsibility includes taking pre-emptive action, if necessary."
Pombo's Democratic opponent for the upcoming November election, Elaine Shaw of Danville, is in favor of the resolution as well, but she admits to having doubts.
"My reservations relate to the president's fulfillment of his obligations under this resolution, particularly the requirement that the administration exhaust non-military options," Shaw said in a written statement to the News-Sentinel.
Democrat Howard Beeman of Sacramento, an Ose opponent for the Third Congressional District seat, does not favor the resolution.
"He does not think the president has made his case," said Ezra Beeman, the candidate's campaign manager. "His position is that he thinks it is flawed legislation."
Back in Washington, D.C., a bipartisan air surrounds the resolution thanks to a White House-Congress deal cut last week which revised a previous version of the resolution.
The original language gave President Bush authority to use force in any Mideast country, Pombo said. The new resolution specifically focuses on Iraq.
Pombo said he was OK with the earlier version and compared it to a bill that was passed Sept. 14, 2001, which gave the president authorization for use of military force.
"There was only one 'no' vote (Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland) on that resolution," Pombo said.
The Congress is expected to vote on the resolution Wednesday or Thursday, Pombo said. But there are some members who would prefer to postpone the vote until after the elections to keep the bill from being politicized.
"What could be more political than telling the American people that we want to wait until after the election for this vote," Pombo asked. "I don't believe there is any reason we should wait, whether there is an upcoming election or not."
And while he credits various governmental agencies such as the FBI for foiling terrorist attacks in recent months, Pombo believes it's only a matter of time before America falls victim to another strike.
"In a free society where we have open borders, we are more prone to attacks," Pombo said.
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