WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The House International Relations Committee last Thursday voted 24 to 19 to send to the House floor, "without recommendation," a resolution requiring President Bush to turn over documents relating to 16 words in his 2003 State of the Union Address. That actually killed the resolution. But the dead can rise again in Congress, and this corpse will.
Thursday's vote marked the ninth time that Democrats had brought this matter before the International Relations Committee without success, and it will not be the last time. Democrats are obsessed with the president's 16 words on Jan. 28, 2003, that reported British intelligence saying Iraq sought uranium from Africa. This is the cutting edge of the Democratic contention that George W. Bush lied his country into war.
Partisan warfare in the House of Representatives is encouraged by heightened Democratic hopes of winning control of the chamber for the first time since 1994. Repeated introduction in the International Relations and Armed Services committees of resolutions hectoring the president about the 2003 speech is intended to focus antiwar resentment against Bush and the Republicans.
The president's trouble began with this statement: "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa." To investigate this, the CIA dispatched former Ambassador Joseph Wilson to Niger. When I quoted administration sources as saying Wilson's CIA employee wife suggested this mission, an investigation by a special prosecutor was launched and Democrats alleged there was a plot to hide the truth about going to war.
The latest form of their effort was a "privileged" resolution introduced by Rep. Maurice Hinchey of New York calling on the president to give the House "all documents in his possession" relating to both the 2003 State of the Union and an Oct. 7, 2002, speech delivered in Cincinnati. The reason for requesting material from the earlier speech was to show that at Cincinnati the president did not mention yellow cake uranium (used to produce nuclear weapons) because the CIA allegedly had told him there was no truth to the claim. The implication is that Bush four months later brought up the uranium-hunt story to build support for war.
Under the rules of the House, the Republicans cannot simply ignore a "privileged" resolution. That would enable the resolution's sponsors to bring it up on the House floor. Paradoxically, such resolutions must be voted on in committee to keep them off the floor.