Historical Highlights

House Passage of the 1991 Resolution Authorizing the Use of Force Against Iraq

January 12, 1991
House Passage of the 1991 Resolution Authorizing the Use of Force Against Iraq Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
About this object
Speaker of the House Thomas Foley of Washington served 15 terms in the House and eventually was appointed U.S. Ambassador to Japan.
On this date, the House passed a resolution authorizing President George H.W. Bush to use military force against Iraq, 250 to 183. The resolution granted President Bush the power to employ amassed U.S. military forces in the Gulf region to eject the Iraqi military from Kuwait, which it had occupied since August 1990. The vote marked the most divided congressional decision to commit U.S. forces to action since the War of 1812. Only three Republicans voted against the measure—Connie Morella of Maryland, Frank Riggs of California, and Silvio Conte of Massachusetts; more than 80 Democrats—many from southern districts with military constituencies—supported it. The vote came after several days of contentious debate and just hours after the House rejected an amendment by Majority Leader Richard Gephardt of Missouri and senior Foreign Affairs Committee member Lee Hamilton of Indiana to continue economic sanctions against Iraq. Nearly 270 Representatives spoke about the resolution on the House Floor. Speaker Thomas S. Foley of Washington took the unusual step of addressing the House from the well to argue on behalf of sanctions. “But however you vote,” Foley said in conclusion, “. . . let us come together after the vote with the notion that we are Americans here, not Democrats and not Republicans . . . without anything but the solemn cry that on this great decision day we voted as our conscience and judgment told us we should.” Four days later the U.S. launched an air war against Iraq. The vote marked the first time since the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution of 1964 that Congress directly preapproved military action.

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