The congressional debate over President Bush's decision to send U.S. troops to the Persian Gulf contains echoes of a similar debate 25 years ago when legislators were struggling with their response to the buildup of U.S. forces in Vietnam.

Today there is disagreement on Capitol Hill, particularly among Democrats, over whether to pass a resolution supporting the Bush administration deployments and, if so, what it should say. Some legislators fear that any resolution passed by Congress could be used as an open-ended authorization for unlimited military action, much as the Tonkin Gulf resolution was used 25 years ago.

According to declassified transcripts of secret 1965 Senate hearings that were released yesterday, administration officials and congressional leaders said then, as some argue now, that a public debate on a resolution would be seen as a sign that the United States lacked resolve for the long haul.

Then, as now, there was also congressional concern that other nations with a more direct interest in the outcome were not providing troops or supplying other kinds of support.

Uppermost today on the minds of many lawmakers as they discuss a possible Persian Gulf resolution is the Tonkin Gulf resolution that was central to many of the discussions in the once-secret 1965 Senate hearings.

That resolution was introduced and passed overwhelmingly in August 1964 to show American resolve in the wake of official U.S. claims of an unprovoked North Vietnamese attack on U.S. warships on patrol in the Tonkin Gulf off the Vietnamese coast. The resolution gave President Lyndon B. Johnson authority "to take all necessary measures to repel any armed attack against the forces of the United States and to prevent further aggression."

When it passed, Sen. J. William Fulbright (D-Ark.), then chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said on the Senate floor that the resolution permitted only limited military actions in response to provocations and did not authorize sending ground troops to Vietnam.

Within six months, however, the Johnson administration cited the resolution as authority for sending 30,000 U.S. soldiers to South Vietnam to protect U.S. aircraft already stationed there.

In a closed April 30, 1965, hearing of his committee, Fulbright asked then-Secretary of State Dean Rusk whether the Johnson administration would seek "authorization or approval" from Congress for the "substantial increase" of U.S. forces then being sent to Vietnam, according to the newly released transcript.

Rusk responded that the administration "has not, quite frankly, taken that up for systematic discussion." He added that there was no plan "for further {congressional} resolutions on this subject," even though additional forces were then expected to be sent.

When Fulbright argued that "traditionally, when we send large numbers of troops abroad, the Congress is consulted and usually their approval is sought," Rusk responded, "I would think it would be quite disadvantageous for the Congress to take up a resolution which dealt with numbers of troops rather than policy."

In an argument that sources said is being used on Capitol Hill today, Rusk contended then that a public debate over the increasingly large numbers of U.S. troops involved in Vietnam "could be inflammatory and increase the risks of larger reaction from the other side." Eventually, more than 500,000 U.S. troops were sent to Vietnam.

Fulbright, in that hearing, introduced another thought that has been voiced in the discussion of the Persian Gulf.

"A lot of us have been quiet," he said. "We do not want to embarrass the administration. We have not discussed it in public . . . because we realize this is a very difficult situation."

Rusk replied, in a statement that seems somewhat akin to Bush administration statements today about Iraq's Saddam Hussein, that the Hanoi government "is not yet convinced it cannot win in the south. We also have the impression that they are relying heavily on the buildup of international and domestic opinion in this country to cause the United States in some way pull back from the situation."

Another subject being discussed today -- the use of troops by countries in the area of conflict to fight alongside Americans -- was raised at a Feb. 9, 1965, closed hearing, a transcript of which was also released yesterday.

Sen. Claiborne Pell (D-R.I.), then a Foreign Relations Committee member and now the panel's chairman, asked then-Assistant Secretary of State William P. Bundy why so few Asian troops were being sent by their governments to fight in Vietnam.

"The point I am trying to get across, and perhaps clumsily," Pell said, "is that if we are really so right and reflect the national wishes of that part of the world, shouldn't there be a far larger number of people of the Oriental race there than of the Caucasian race?"

Bundy responded that "we would very much like to see that," but he went on to provide reasons why that was not happening. He noted that he wanted to see a "very much larger contingent of Filipinos" in Vietnam than the 34 he said were there, but added that they "have been asking us to pick up the tab on per diem rates equivalent to what their attaches get in Washington."

At that rate, Bundy said it would cost the United States $10 million a year for a 1,800-man Filipino force. He called that unsound and "out of key" with the help given "quietly" to pay for a 2,000-man Korean force in Vietnam.

Eventually the Johnson administration paid the price for the Filipinos.

But five years later, when the Senate committee disclosed the payments, they were withdrawn.