War supplemental tops next week’s congressional agenda

The Senate is set to move next week to the conference report of the fiscal 2009 war supplemental bill, but Sens. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and John McCain, R-Ariz., are threatening to stall Senate business over expected removal of a provision barring release of detainee mistreatment photos.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., on Thursday said he expects conferees to wrap up work on the report this afternoon, with a House vote Monday or Tuesday and the Senate vote a day later.

House conferees will likely prevail in removing a Senate-passed amendment that bars the White House from having to release of photos of detainee mistreatment in response to a lawsuit. McCain on Thursday said he would join Lieberman and Graham in a threatened filibuster of the supplemental and other Senate bills over removal of the provision. He said they would "do everything that we can to oppose such legislation," McCain said.

It isn't clear if Democrats have enough votes to overcome a filibuster. "I don't know," Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said when asked if he could get to 60 votes. Reid did not directly answer a question about votes, but stressed the need to quickly pass the bill to fund troops overseas.

If the Senate finishes work on the supplemental, it will likely move to a bill that would set up a public-private partnership to promote international travel to the United States, a Reid spokeswoman said. The bill is strongly backed by Nevada lawmakers, including Reid, eager to promote travel to Las Vegas.

Reid also said he "hopes to move forward" on a drug reimportation bill. A bipartisan group of senators hoped to attach the measure to a bill giving the FDA power to regulate cigarettes, which the Senate is expected to pass on Thursday. Reid did not allow a vote on the amendment, saying it could endanger the bill, but he told Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., that he would seek a separate vote. It is unclear when the bill might come up, Reid's spokeswoman said.

The House expects to take up the FDA-tobacco bill and the long-delayed supplemental next week. Also on the agenda are the Commerce-Justice-Science and Homeland Security appropriations bills.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said on Thursday that the House will probably vote on the Senate's version of the tobacco bill rather than going to conference to work out differences in the two versions. President Obama has said he would sign the bill.

While Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., have said they expect the war funding bill to be on the floor next week, although House-Senate negotiators are still trying to reach agreement on the package.

The House named conferees on Thursday and overwhelmingly approved a nonbinding Republican motion to instruct conferees to include the Lieberman-Graham amendment in the final bill. Leading the House conferees are Appropriations Chairman Committee David Obey, D-Wis., and ranking member Jerry Lewis, R-Calif., and Defense Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman John Murtha, D-Pa., and ranking member C.W. (Bill) Young, R-Fla. They are scheduled to meet this afternoon with Senate conferees.

Humberto Sanchez contributed to this report.

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