ASHINGTON - House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said
Thursday that President Bush lacks the authority to invade Iran without specific
approval from Congress, a fresh challenge to the commander in chief on the eve
of a symbolic vote critical of his troop buildup in Iraq.
Pelosi, D-Calif., noted that Bush
consistently said he supports a diplomatic resolution to differences with Iran
"and I take him at his word."
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)(L) and Rep. John
Murtha (D-PA) hold a news conference about their recent trip to Iraq and
Afghanistan on Capitol Hill in Washington, January 24, 2007.
At the same time, she said, "I do believe that Congress should assert itself,
though, and make it very clear that there is no previous authority for the
president, any president, to go into Iran."
Pelosi spoke in an interview in the Capitol as the House moved through a
third marathon day of debate on a nonbinding measure that disapproves of the
military buildup in Iraq while expressing support for the troops.
Passage of the measure was expected Friday, and
across the Capitol, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid unexpectedly announced
plans to hold a test vote Saturday.
Partisan bickering has prevented a Senate vote on the troop increase, with
Republicans insisting on equal treatment for an alternative rules out the
"elimination or reduction of funds for troops in the field."
Pelosi and other Democrats have said approval on the nonbinding measure would
mark the first step in an effort by the new Democratic-controlled Congress to
force Bush to change course in a war that has killed more than 3,100 US
Bush administration officials and their allies are resigned to House passage
of the resolution and have worked in recent days to hold down defections by GOP
But Bush took a swipe at his critics during the day.
"This may become the first time in the history of the United States Congress
that it has voted to send a new commander into battle and then voted to oppose
his plan that is necessary to succeed in that battle," the president said.
The Senate unanimously confirmed Lt. Gen David Petraeus last week to take
over as the top US commander in Iraq.
Bush said at a news conference Wednesday there is no doubt the Iranian
government is providing armor-piercing weapons to kill American troops in Iraq.
But he backed away from claims the top echelon of Iran's government was
Administration critics have accused the president of looking for a pretense
to attack the Islamic republic, which is also at loggerheads with the United
Nations about what Tehran says is a nuclear program aimed at developing energy
for peaceful purposes.
Defending US intelligence that has pinpointed Iran as a hostile arms
supplier in Iraq, Bush said, "Does this mean you're trying to have a pretext for
war? No. It means I'm trying to protect our troops."
Bush has asked Congress to approve $100 billion for the
wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Congressional Democrats are hoping to insert
provisions that would make it harder for the administration to follow through on
its plan to deploy an additional 21,500 combat troops to Iraq.