The U.S. flag was first raised on Kuwaiti-owned oil tankers in the Persian Gulf July 21, after Kuwait sought protection because of the 7-year-old war between its ally and neighbor, Iraq, and Iran. Since the Reagan administration "reflagging" effort began, critics have claimed it triggers the 1973 War Powers Resolution. Under the resolution, the president must notify Congress when he sends troops into areas where "imminent" hostilities are likely, and withdraw the troops within 60 days unless Congress declares war, authorizes the operation or extends the deadline. Excerpts from the ongoing debate:

Our review of the situation in the gulf area indicates that the special pay {imminent danger pay bonuses awarded for military personnel serving in the Persian Gulf area} is warranted on the basis of terrorist actions and other conditions.

-- David J. Armor, acting assistant secretary of defense for personnel, Aug. 26

I think the significance of this goes far beyond the imminent danger pay. If there is concern by the Pentagon that there is imminent danger in the gulf, that is exactly the requirement for invoking the War Powers Resolution.

-- Rep. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Aug. 26

What kind of wacky world is this where the president is taken to court every time he moves our troops around in the national security interest? Sometimes a president must take risk for peace, and he doesn't need to be blocked every inch of the way.

-- Vice President Bush, Aug. 25

There are real risks to the men in the fleet. The president should invoke the war powers act. The law requires it. It is designed for situations like that. If he did, Congress would approve it by a large margin.

-- Rep. Steven J. Solarz (D-N.Y.), Aug. 23

There's no change in our position that notification of Congress under the War Powers Resolution is unnecessary.

-- White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater, Aug. 19

The war powers act is a legal issue. The White House and State Department lawyers, Defense Department lawyers have been following the situation very closely . . . . If at some point in time it appears to the lawyers that we should notify the Congress under the war powers act, the president will clearly do so, reserving of course his constitutional prerogative, since all presidents have had concerns about the constitutionality of the war powers act . . . . The lawyers have not decided that U.S. forces in the region are in danger of imminent hostilities. But as soon as they decide that -- should they decide that -- then we will make the appropriate notifications.

-- Frank C. Carlucci, national security adviser, Aug. 16

I don't like to see discussion of consultation between the president and the Congress get involved in legalisms. And it seems to me that an awful lot of the discussion with respect to the war powers act kind of degenerates, if you will, into complex legal questions. The important point is the consultation. I would think the president would eagerly seek out that consultation, and I would think he would want for his policy support from the Congress. One of the good things about the war powers act is that it brings the Congress into the action. Congress is kind of reluctant to do that, I think often. And the war powers act forces it.

-- Rep. Lee H. Hamilton (D-Ind.), Aug. 16

This is exactly the sort of situation the War Powers Resolution was designed to deal with. It is indisputable that American forces in the Persian Gulf face imminent hostility and the situation is becoming more dangerous every day.

-- Rep. Mike Lowry (D-Wash.), Aug. 6

I never felt the war powers act was in the public interest because the Constitution says what the president can do. I felt the war powers act gave additional powers to the president, to have a 90-day war if he wanted to, which he did in Grenada -- he had a one-day war in Grenada. The Constitution says Congress decides whether you go to war.

-- Rep. Charles E. Bennett (D-Fla.), July 25

I also agree that the war powers act is unconstitutional . . . . It's the worst of both worlds. It does give the president 90 days to almost do whatever he wants for a series of miniwars, but because it is not following the Constitution, it also prevents him from maintaining that clear image that the president has as the leader of the Free World and as . . . commander-in-chief of our armed forces to respond instantly to a hostage crisis or some rapidly developing situation like Grenada.

-- Rep. Robert K. Dornan (R-Calif.), July 25

A very good argument could be made that the war powers act ought to have been invoked on May 17, that tragic day when 37 American servicemen were killed aboard the USS Stark . . . . At the very least, it is clear to me that the moment the U.S. flag goes up the poles of those tankers, the war powers clock ought to begin ticking. And 48 hours later, a written report from the president ought to be delivered to Congress under the requirements of the war powers act.

-- Sen. Mark O. Hatfield (R-Ore.), June 2

Hostilities are not only imminent in the Persian Gulf, they have taken place. We have been involved in conflict. Thirty-seven Americans have been killed. The administration has the responsibility to report under the war powers act.

-- Rep. Jim Leach (R-Iowa), June 2

If there ever were a case in which the war powers act applies, this is it . . . . There's a big difference when you're in a combat zone . . . . It's no bluff anymore. It's not a bluff as it was in Beirut.

-- Sen. John H. Glenn (D-Ohio), May 27