Senate likely to postpone action on homeland bill

A flurry of activity at the end of the week has caused Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., to reshuffle his priorities in the last week before the August recess, with quick action possible on a number of important pieces of legislation.

With new agreements on a handful of conference reports, Daschle said that no longer is there enough time to act next week on homeland security legislation, a priority for the president.

"I have no expectation any longer that we can complete our work on homeland security" before the recess, Daschle said. Daschle said he hoped to at least take up the bill before the recess.

But in an effort to keep pressure on the Democrats, Minority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., said, "I think we should even stay here over the weekend or into next week if that's what it takes."

Lott, who previously has frowned on imposing arbitrary deadlines on the legislation, said he would like to be able to meet the "goal" of completing action by Sept. 11. He said that at a minimum, the Senate should act on procedural motions and take up the bill when it returns.

Daschle, however, wants to focus attention on Medicare prescription drug legislation-which Lott characterized as being "in park."

Told about Lott's comments after a news conference today, Daschle warned, "If we don't get a deal on Medicare, we'll definitely be bumping into next weekend, or possibly the week after."

A Senate GOP leadership aide said there was "a political utility for having vulnerable Senate Democratic incumbents in Washington, while many House Republican candidates are already holding campaign events today."

House GOP members getting a head start on the recess because of House adjournment this week include some of the party's top Senate candidates, such as Reps. Greg Ganske of Iowa, Saxby Chambliss of Georgia and John Thune of South Dakota.

Daschle said the Senate will stay on prescription drug legislation until September if necessary. He said he would like to take up the conference agreement on renewing presidential trade negotiating authority if possible next week, but noted that the bill will face several procedural hurdles, and could take up the entire week.

Lott said there was an agreement to take up the fiscal year 2003 Defense appropriations bill by next Wednesday, and that the bill should take a day or two, with amendments. He said it might be possible to act on one or two other spending bills next week.

Lott noted that the Senate is now making progress in moving presidential nominations, and could move scores of nominees next week. But he then linked the issue of nominations to action on the 2003 Energy and Water appropriations bill, saying the Judiciary Committee has "basically shut down" and continues to "savage outstanding men and women and minorities."