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DeLay, Hoyer Send Matching Messages on Iraq

As the No. 2 men in their respective parties, Reps. Tom DeLay (R-Texas) and Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) usually don’t see eye-to-eye. But when it comes to Congress’ role in President Bush’s handling of Iraq, they were in agreement Thursday.

In separate press briefings, Majority Leader DeLay and Minority Whip Hoyer both said Congress has said its piece on using force in Iraq and has not given Bush too much autonomy.

DeLay said Congress’ overwhelming vote last year in favor of granting Bush authority to use force, if necessary, to make Saddam Hussein disarm was proof that the president enjoys the full support of Congress.

“The Congress did have its say” with last year’s vote, Hoyer agreed. And Bush has followed the legislative branch’s direction by going to the United Nations and giving Hussein one more chance to disarm peacefully, he added.

Despite the overwhelmingly positive response former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean enjoyed with his anti-war stance at the Democratic National Committee’s winter meeting Friday, Hoyer was not ready to say the party should adopt a more dove-like platform.

“I think dissent is very important for people to have in a democracy,” he said, especially in light of the serious questions the public has about going to war.

DeLay went after Dean head-on, saying that if the Democratic Party follows the ex-governor’s lead it will become the “appeasement” party.

“I thought it was outrageous,” the Majority Leader said of Dean’s speech, in which the presidential candidate accused Bush of marching to war unilaterally. “Either he doesn’t know what he’s talking about or he’s seriously uninformed or he’s purposely misleading the American people.”

Dean’s speech showed he’s not ready for national office, DeLay added.

As talk turned to how to pay for a war, it seemed many Members believe armed conflict is inevitable. But they have not budgeted any funds for it yet.

Because Bush’s fiscal 2004 budget did not include money for war with Iraq, Congress will have to pass a supplemental bill to pay for one.

Neither leader was willing to say at what dollar amount — if any — Congress would balk when it comes to paying for a war.

“The country can stand what it needs to stand,” Hoyer said.

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