With U.S. soldiers already setting up camp in snowpacked Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Senate reluctantly rejected a House effort Wednesday to block their deployment by cutting off funds.
By a 77-22 vote, the Senate essentially acknowledged that President Clinton’s plan to use 20,000 U.S. troops to enforce peace in Bosnia had passed the point of no return.
“It is a done deal whether we like it or not,” Sen. James Exon, D-Neb., said.
Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., said, “U.S. troops will be deployed in Bosnia no matter what the Congress does.”
But the Senate continued to debate two resolutions on Bosnia.
One resolution, introduced by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, expresses strong disagreement with the deployment, but offers support for the troops. The other, proposed by Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole of Kansas, a presidential candidate, expresses support for the mission, but with “reservations.”
“Congress must exercise its responsibility under the Constitution,” Hutchison said. “We must say no when there is a bad decision that will cost American lives. Congress has not authorized this deployment. It is not an emergency.”
Hutchison’s measure drew the most criticism from liberal Democrats, who lined up behind Clinton.
“In my view, the Hutchison resolution undermines the troops,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said. “It says it supports the troops but it’s designed to give the president a back door to pull the rug out from under them. We can’t have it both ways. If we support the troops, we should support the policy.”
But Hutchison insisted that it is possible for the Senate to disagree with the mission without affecting troop morale.
“There are many of us who do not think this is the right mission, but who are going to go full force to support our troops,” Hutchison said. “It is a tough decision for anyone to vote to put the troops in harm’s way.”
Texas Senator Phil Gramm, another contender for the White House in 1996, said the deployment was a “bad decision” by Clinton.
“I understand the votes are here to assure that the president is not only going to be able to send troops to Bosnia but is going to be able to cloak himself in congressional support, but I want to make it very clear I do not support this policy,” said Gramm, who supports Hutchison’s proposal, but opposes Dole’s measure.
Dole’s resolution would bar North Atlantic Treaty Organization peacekeepers from becoming involved in efforts to restore civil institutions in Bosnia and would have the United States lead a move to arm and train the Muslim-led Bosnian military.
But Gramm called that idea misguided and said it forced the United States to act as a peacekeeper while arming only one side.