Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., believes Democrats are closing in on the votes needed to approve an amendment that would strip seven controversial provisions from the House version of the homeland security bill.
Daschle said he thinks all Senate Democrats will vote for the amendment he has proposed with Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joseph Lieberman, D-Ct. In addition, several Republicans such as Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Susan Collins of Maine have hinted that they may vote for the amendment. "We are very hopeful," said a Daschle spokeswoman. But the office of Sen. Zell Miller, D-Ga., Monday announced he will vote with Republicans against the amendment.
Adopting the amendment would create competing House and Senate bills, requiring the House to either come back into session to accept the Senate changes-or create a House-Senate conference committee to work out the difference. House Republicans said they would opt for a conference committee, which would likely begin in December and could stretch until Christmas, according to a spokesman for House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill.
"If Senate Democrats continue to play games in the Senate we are prepared to come back," said a spokesman for House Majority Whip Tom DeLay, R-Texas, the incoming majority leader.
A spokesman for retiring House Majority Leader Dick Armey, R-Texas, added that the House would not accept the Democrats' amendment. "The changes that they are talking about aren't acceptable and would force a conference," the Armey spokesman said.
The House passed the legislation last Wednesday by a 299- 121 vote and Armey's spokesman said Senate Democratic leaders were searching for complaints about the bill. "The bill is a product of compromise between the House and the Senate," he said. "We passed it by a veto-proof majority."
After voting on the Democrats' amendment Tuesday morning, the Senate will move to a handful of votes to approve the House- passed bill.