The Senate delayed a procedural vote on homeland security legislation Thursday until after the August recess-a move that further dampens the chances for Senate approval of a Homeland Security Department by the symbolic deadline of Sept. 11.
Under a deal reached Thursday, senators will vote on a motion to proceed to the homeland legislation soon after returning from the upcoming four-week break.
Senators had expected to vote on the motion Friday. However, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., in a series of speeches, has pleaded with senators to slow down consideration of the bill to ensure that the creation of the new Cabinet-level department gets careful thought.
The homeland legislation could take more than a week on the Senate floor. If senators approve the cloture motion on Sept. 3 when they return to Capitol Hill, the Senate would have just five legislative days to approve the bill before September 11.
Meanwhile, Senate Governmental Affairs ranking member Fred Thompson, R-Tenn., suggested Democrats were on the "defensive" over the issue of worker rights in the new department.
Thompson predicted that when the bill comes to the floor in the fall, it would be difficult for Democrats to "defend the proposition that they should take away authority the president has had since 1949" to restrict labor rights for national security reasons.
"The president in no uncertain terms said this [workplace flexibility] is important," Thompson told reporters.
Senate Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., Wednesday appeared with two union members-a Border Patrol agent and a firefighter-to repeat his vow to defend the labor language in his bill.