Senator Gaylord Nelson (D-Wisconsin), disturbed by growing reports that the Johnson administration is preparing to escalate U.S. operations in Vietnam, states that Congress did not intend the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution to endorse escalation.
The resolution had been passed on August 7 in response to what became known as the Gulf of Tonkin incident. Allegedly, North Vietnamese patrol boats had fired on U.S. warships in the waters off North Vietnam on two separate occasions between August 2-4. Though the second attack on August 4 was questionable, the incident provided the motivation for the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. The resolution, which passed unanimously in the House of Representatives and with only two dissenting votes in the Senate, gave the president power to “take all necessary measures to repel an armed attack against the forces of the United States and to prevent further aggression.” Johnson used the resolution as the basis for his escalation of the war. In 1966, Senator Wayne Morse (D-Oregon) would propose repealing the resolution, but there would be little support to do so at that time. However, as the war progressed, sentiment shifted and Congress repealed the resolution in 1970.