Speaker Thomas S. Foley (D-Wash.) said yesterday the House will begin debate Thursday on a resolution authorizing President Bush to use force to oust Iraq from Kuwait, setting the stage for the first full-scale congressional consideration of whether to commit U.S. troops to battle since World War II.

Foley predicted the measure would pass by a narrow vote by the weekend. The Senate also is expected to begin debate Thursday.

Foley's statements came as the president began calling House and Senate Republicans last night to consult on whether he should submit his own resolution, and in what form. A senior official said Bush "has decided he wants to shape the debate and be an active force" in what emerges from Congress and "is likely" to overcome his previous reluctance to submit his own language or a letter outlining it.

"We are considering sending up a draft resolution," White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater said last night, adding that Bush will make a final decision today. Until this week, the White House position had been that Congress should on its own pass a resolution authorizing Bush to use force, patterned after the one passed by the United Nations.

The U.N. resolution, approved by the Security Council last November, does not prescribe specific action, but authorizes member states to use "all necessary means" to oust Iraq from Kuwait if Iraqi President Saddam Hussein does not withdraw his forces by Jan. 15.

Bush has maintained he has authority to use force without a declaration of war by Congress and without any explicit authorization. The White House, concerned until this week that Congress was so divided it could not debate and vote a resolution, has been reluctant to ask for one. A senior official said last night, "The single most important thing at the end of the day is to have no language limiting the president's ability to act."

Most Americans expect Bush to seek permission from Congress before using military force, a new Washington Post-ABC News poll shows, but they also want Congress to more actively support the president's Middle East policies. The survey found that more than six of 10 Americans support going to war with Iraq if Saddam does not withdraw. {Details, Page A12.}

In response to the gulf situation, oil prices rose $2.75 yesterday to $27.65 per barrel while the Dow Jones Industrial Average declined by more than 43 points.

A senior official, discussing the White House decision to fully enter the fray over Congress's power, said: "What has changed here is there is no longer a sense that having the debate would be harmful to the diplomacy. With the diplomacy set to end on Wednesday {when Secretary of State James A. Baker III meets with Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz}, Saddam will be persuaded, Congress or no Congress, that we are prepared to go to war or he won't be. We don't fear the mixed-message problem anymore."

The president spent much of the day in private consultations on the gulf and related issues. Fitzwater said Bush's public schedule will be virtually bare the next week as he meets with congressional leaders and his national security advisers, and makes phone calls about the gulf crisis.

Foley's announcement that Congress will debate and vote on the gulf situation was in response to pressure from his party's liberal wing to take up the issue before the Jan. 15 U.N. deadline.

A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader George J. Mitchell (D-Maine) said it is "probable" that the Senate also will begin a full-blown debate Thursday on a variety of gulf resolutions, with votes expected over the weekend.

Foley, who like Mitchell opposes use of force until international economic sanctions to pressure Iraq have been given longer to work, said the House probably will take up at least two other resolutions this week.

One would likely reaffirm Congress's constitutional authority to declare war. The other -- backed by the Democratic leadership as an alternative to the use of force authorization -- would urge the administration to pursue all available economic and diplomatic solutions to the five-month-old crisis.

"I think we should stay with the sanctions, but this is an issue on which every member of Congress will have to make up his or her mind from their conscience as well as their judgment," Foley said at a news conference in the Capitol yesterday.

Despite his own misgivings and those of other Democratic congressional leaders, Foley said yesterday that a resolution patterned after the U.N. resolution "would probably pass the House if the vote were taken today."

But Foley said such an endorsement would hardly constitute unqualified support, because "it would not pass by the levels that the president has thought he would like to see."

The White House is far less certain. A senior official said a session in the Capitol yesterday with House and Senate Republican leaders produced a "raging debate" over whether Bush could get a resolution as strong as the U.N. version, whether it would be linked to some requirement that he certify the sanctions against Iraq were not working, and the issue of timing. "How we do depends on what exactly the vote is on, so nobody can tell you with any certainty what we won if we won," a senior official said.

Democratic congressional leaders had considered delaying any debate or vote until after the Jan. 15 deadline, which they consider artificial and arbitrary. They feared that Republicans could blame a divisive debate if Iraq does not leave Kuwait by that date, Democratic leadership aides said.

House Minority Leader Robert H. Michel (R-Ill.) alluded to that yesterday when he said on the floor that "we may be giving a message that speaks with all kinds of voices all over the lot."

During the weekend, top Democrats abandoned hopes of putting off the debate as lawmakers pressed for a vote before any military action in the gulf, and after Bush failed to assure the leaders that such action would not come immediately after Jan. 15, aides said. Further, support for a resolution backing the use of force appeared to be growing, they said.

"We have deferred it as long as possible for events to take shape," Foley said yesterday. "Now that we are approaching a time when there is a very real possibility of conflict, I think the Congress . . . should voice its position on these questions, and we intend to do so."

Congress voted to declare war on Japan, at the request of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, after the 1941 Pearl Harbor bombing. Congress did not vote to authorize the Korean War. It has long been debated whether the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which authorized the United States to use force against North Vietnam, constituted adequate congressional approval for the long Vietnam War that followed.

Both the precise wording of the various competing resolutions, and the framework for the debate that begins Thursday, are likely to be worked out during private meetings over the next couple of days.

Foley has scheduled another meeting today with the same group of House liberals who have been pressing him hard for a wide-open debate and vote on the crisis. Bush is considering inviting to the White House today a "wider circle" of congressional members than the leadership group he has met with several times.

Congressional aides expect that the vast majority of the House's 167 Republican members would support a resolution authorizing the use of force. Added to that would be dozens of conservative and moderate Democrats, as well as some liberals.

That leaves Democratic leaders, and others who favor continued diplomatic peacekeeping efforts and economic sanctions, facing a defeat that would at best send a message to the White House that they are a substantial minority.