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Congress moving to support Bush on Iraq

Congressman Bill Shuster told reporters Tuesday afternoon he will vote to give President Bush the authority to use military force against Iraq’s Saddam Hussein.
“Saddam cannot be trusted,” said the 9th District Congressman. “He has evaded inspection, lied, cheated, moved around weapons, used chemical weapons against Iran and his own people and has tortured children.”
Shuster talked to reporters in a conference call news conference from his Washington office during the debate in Congress over giving the president the authorization he asked for in a Monday night televised address to the nation.
“The president was very clear,” said the freshman congressman. “He laid out his case. We should pass this resolution and, if necessary, use force to protect national security.”
The president has a big majority of the Pennsylvania delegation, Republican and Democrats, supporting the passage of the resolution.
Fifteen of the state’s 23 lawmakers, two senators and 21 House members, have said they planned to support the plan to take military action in order to disarm Saddam Hussein of chemical, biological or nuclear weapons and, if possible, depose the Iraqi leader.
Only four Pennsylvania legislators said there were staunchly opposed to the plan.
Senator Arlen Specter and Representative Jim Greenwood of Bucks County, two key GOP lawmakers, are among three undecided lawmakers who said they would hold off their final decision until the debate is completed.
While admitting the U.S. does not know when Saddam “will be able to build a nuke,” Shuster said, “I don’t think we should take a chance.”
“I have seen the evidence. He has a history of backing these extreme groups,” said Shuster. “It does not make any sense to sit back and allow him to become any stronger.”
The congressman predicted the resolution will have “overwhelming” support in the House and will pass the Senate with a “significant majority.”
Some lawmakers have rejected the president’s appeal, saying the White House should wait until it gets support from the United Nations.
Shuster said while United Nations support is desirable, if the U.S. must go it alone with only limited coalition support, so be it.
He said he has had input from constituents and he said backing the president is “getting general overall support.”
After a full day of speeches on Tuesday, the House was on course to vote by Thursday on the resolution.
Bush urged Congress to give him the authority he wants, telling a Tennessee audience Tuesday “that the full force and fury of the United States military will be unleashed” should he decide to use force against Iraq.
Hopes of a quick resolution in the Senate faded Tuesday when West Virginia Democratic Senator Robert Byrd made clear that he would use parliamentary delaying tactics to push debate into next week..
Byrd, an unyielding defender of the Senate’s constitutional rights, said the resolution was a “blank check” that “cedes the decision-making power of the Congress under the Constitution to declare war.” He suggested the issue be put off until after the November election.
(The AP contributed to this report.)