Reviving a dispute that developed with disclosures of additional U.S. deployments and the operation of a secret back-up government, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., said Congress had a duty to ask tough questions about expanding the anti-terror war outside Afghanistan.
"We need to support our troops, they've done an outstanding job, but we also have to ask the right questions. That is the role of Congress. We're a co-equal branch of government," Daschle told NBC's "Meet The Press."
"I don't think we ought to rubber-stamp any president, as we get into these difficult decisions," Daschle said.
The United States has begun to expand its war on terrorism, sending U.S. troops to Yemen, the Philippines and Georgia to help train forces – developments the Democrats said they were not informed of.
Sitting alongside Daschle in the NBC studio, Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., questioned the timing and tone of Daschle's comments and said such dissent could hurt American interests.
"He (Bush) needs us to work with him and help him. And any sign that we are losing that unity or crack in that support will be, I think, used against us overseas," Lott warned.
Lott was perturbed by Daschle's comment that U.S. forces had failed to get al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, the chief suspect in the Sept. 11 attacks against the United States.
"It appeared to be a criticism, and ... I think he would acknowledge it did say that unless we got Mullah Omar and bin Laden, that it had been a failure," said Lott.
Daschle denied there was any lack of patriotism, or "cracks in support" on the part of Democrats, but said if the United States was going to commit $4.7 trillion over the next 10 years for defense, lawmakers needed to know where the money was going and what for.
"If we are going to commit those men, those women, those lives then we have to ask the questions that are required of us."
Sen. Joseph Lieberman, a Connecticut Democrat and former vice presidential candidate, also said it was wrong to say Democrats were not united behind Mr. Bush and described the Republican reaction as a "lot of hyperventilation."
But Lieberman said the Bush administration could do a better job of informing Congress "about where the war was going."
"I'm sure if they do, the overwhelming majority of members of both parties will be supportive," Lieberman told CBS's "Face The Nation."
Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona agreed more consultation was needed as the United States contemplated additional action.
"Now we are embarking in other parts of the world, in other kinds of operations and that new phase of this war on terrorism needs to be explained and I have confidence that it will be," McCain told CBS.
Daschle complained he had been kept in the dark on Bush's setting up the "shadow government," a Cold War-era plan involving dozens of civilians living and working in secret bunkers to ensure the continuity of government in case of a catastrophic attack.
"I was surprised, frankly, to have to read it in The Washington Post. There was no consultation," Daschle said.