WASHINGTON, Dec. 20, 1989 (UPI) -- President Bush's decision to use military force in Panama won quick bipartisan support in Congress Wednesday, with most members saying the United States had run out of options for dealing with Gen. Manuel Noriega.
Bush informed congressional leaders, in keeping with the requirements of the War Powers Act, reaching Senate Democratic leader George Mitchell of Maine on a secure line at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City after midnight.
Mitchell later said the action ''was made necessary by the reckless actions of General Noriega. ... I hope that the restoration of democracy to Panama will occur as soon as possible.''
House Speaker Thomas Foley, D-Wash., also declared his support, saying, ''The establishment of a free democratic Panamanian government was the hope of all Americans when the elections occurred in May of this year, and the brutal repression'' of that election was ''a deep disappointment.''
Foley said he expressed some concerns when Bush called him Tuesday night, but backs the president's action. ''When American troops are in the field and casualties are being taken ... it's not the appropriate time for a lot of complicated debate.''
Senate Republican leader Robert Dole of Kansas, reached by Bush shortly before midnight, said, ''The president did the right thing.''
Dole said many Democrats in Congress who ''were so eager to jump on'' Bush in October, accusing him of being timid and slow to respond to the attempted coup against Noriega, cannot do so now.
''Not any more. I think what it says politically is that George Bush keeps his own counsel, and makes his own decisions,'' Dole said.
Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., a senior member of the Foreign Relations Committee, said the venture is an ''overwhelming success because democracy has now been inaugurated and installed in Panama. The will of the people expressed in the election has now been heard and is effective. The Panama Canal Treaty, ... can proceed. The Canal is safe. Americans are safe.''
Rep. Dante Fascell, D-Fla., chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said, ''The president acted properly and decisively.''
But the action drew some criticism. Sen. Claiborne Pell, D-R.I., chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, questioned whether it was ''the wisest step.''
''I realize it was a very tough call for our president. Personally, though, I would not have engaged in such a unilateral action,'' Pell said.
Rep. Don Edwards, D-Calif., called the move ''a trigger-happy act of gunboat diplomacy that continues our mindless 100-year abuse of small Central American nations.'' Edwards asserted there was ''no danger'' to U.S. national security or the Panama Canal.
Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., chairman of the House Narcotics Committee, said, ''I oppose the invasion of Panama. The last thing other Latin leaders will want to see is American troops fighting in a neighboring country.''
Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., said he was ''gravely concerned'' about the possible long-term damage to U.S. policy and the ability to work with other nations in Latin America.
But Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., said in a statement, ''This time President Bush has got it exactly right.''
Sen. Paul Simon, D-Ill., a former presidential candidate, said, ''More information from the administration is needed before we can know whether this particular operation, as planned and executed, was the best course of action at this time.''
Sen. Sam Nunn, D-Ga., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he backed Bush and added, ''I hope that this operation can be brought to a speedy conclusion so that the government of President Endara can begin restoring stability and rebuilding the Panamanian economy.''
Rep. Les Aspin, D-Wis., chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, had two choices following the failed coup -- ''stow its anti-Noriega rhetoric and leave itself to the whims of events, or take the initiative and intervene. The latter was the better choice.''
Rep. Bill Richardson, D-N.M., who has been a critic of Bush's Central America policy, said the military action was justified. ''We had no choice. Noriega was making a laughing stock of the United States. ... On the basis of saving American lives, protecting the canal and eliminating a drug cancer from the hemisphere we had no choice but to act.''
That feeling on Capitol Hill grew after Noriega's refusal to abide by the outcome of the May elections in Panama and intensified after the failed October coup, during which the United States took no action.
Congress adopted a non-binding resolution in October expressing its support for Bush to restore constitutional government in Panama and to remove Noriega through ''diplomatic, economic and military options.''