House Puts In Its Two Cents Over Kosovo

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WASHINGTON: Bill Clinton and NATO just got another partner in the decision-making process -- sort of. A raucous House of Representatives stormed into the Balkans on Wednesday, voting 249-180, largely along party lines, to require Clinton to get their approval before injecting "ground elements" into Kosovo. Such vague language could mean Apache helicopters and definitely includes ground troops, but TIME congressional correspondent John Dickerson says this was pure symbolism. "Congress, and Republicans especially, felt they had to reassert their authority on Kosovo," he says. "But they're too split over it themselves to have any real influence on Clinton."

A case in point was the last vote of the day, on a resolution in support of the air campaign (which the Senate approved last month); it failed in a 213-213 tie even after Speaker Dennis Hastert put his weight behind it. And the Senate has no immediate plans to follow the House in handcuffing Clinton -- not with John McCain pushing his own resolution to put "all means necessary" at the President's disposal. The House wouldn't have voted at all, says Dickerson, if California Republican congressman Tom Campbell hadn't forced a pair of full House votes Wednesday on two resolutions, one declaring war on Yugoslavia and the other requiring President Clinton to withdraw U.S. troops within 30 days. Both failed, but once on the record, House Republicans had to mark their territory; hence the sound-and-fury vote on ground troops. "They'd still have preferred to leave it alone," says Dickerson. "The longer this stays Clinton's war, the better it is for Republicans."

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