John McCaslin

Rest assured, U.S. troops are not preparing to invade Iran - although some congressional reporters covering Capitol Hill weren't so sure.

As a result, the authors of legislation introduced in Congress - interpreted by some as authorizing military action against Iran in light of nearly two decades of covert nuclear programs pursued by that country - have agreed to erase one word from their amendment.

The initial words "all appropriate means" are confusing, agrees Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., Delaware Democrat.

"To make it absolutely clear that the resolution before us does not do that, the authors of the substitute amendment have deleted the word 'all' from that phrase. We do not intend this resolution to encourage the use of military force by any country," he stresses.

In other words, the United States will use "appropriate means" to bring Iran into international nuclear compliance, but stop short of "all appropriate means."

Not that Congress can march the U.S. military into war.

As the senator points out, such a resolution cannot authorize the use of force by the United States. Under the Constitution and War Powers Resolution, only legislation signed by the president can do that.


NAACP President Kweisi Mfume apparently has the black vote wrapped up for Sen. John Kerry, spending the entire week before the Democratic National Convention on the Royal Caribbean "Adventure of the Seas."

"We shipped off from San Juan, Puerto Rico, on Sunday the 18th, and he was on the ship the whole week, until Sunday the 25th," one gentleman on his honeymoon tells this column. "He was at the clubs, comedy shows, lounges, dancing. . . ."


Congress is no role model.

Or so says one congresswoman fed up with congressional votes being extended up to three hours with the aim of changing the outcome, with charges of bribery on the House floor, with the reported theft of computer files by a congressional staffer.

Congress is increasingly becoming "a model of how not to run a democracy," says Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney. That is why the New York Democrat has introduced the Restoring Democracy to the United States Act of 2004, setting forth 10 changes that would:

1. Limit the time of roll call votes to 17 minutes.

2. Require conference committees to meet and vote before filing their conference reports.

3. Prohibit germaneness requirements for conference reports from being waived.

4. Prohibit members from calling the U.S. Capitol Police to have a congressman removed from a room.

5. Prohibit redistricting between censuses.

John McCaslin

John McCaslin is a contributing columnist on and author of Inside The Beltway: Offbeat Stories, Scoops, and Shenanigans from around the Nation's Capital .

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