In the latest potential snag on homeland security legislation, Sen. Phil Gramm, R-Texas, vowed Tuesday to attach the bill to all continuing resolutions that would create a post-election lame-duck session. Moments later, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., told reporters that he believes the Senate would approve the homeland bill before Election Day, but that he expected House-Senate negotiations on the bill to carry on past the election.
Gramm's move could complicate the task of approving a continuing resolution and make it more difficult to establish a post-election session. Specifically, Gramm said he would try to attach the homeland bill to any continuing resolution that would extend into a lame-duck session. He hinted that he would not try to add the legislation to a long-term funding measure that would last into next year.
"I'm not going to let them say we'll take care of it after the election," Gramm said of the legislation. He said the issue would be dealt with either before the election or when the 108th Congress convenes next January.
Meanwhile, Daschle also said it was "increasingly likely" that a lame-duck session would be held, especially if the Senate cannot approve legislation to create the Department of Homeland Security. "We have a lot of work to do and I intend to keep the Senate here to do it," Daschle warned. If senators fail to pass homeland security legislation, "we ought to come back," he said. Daschle added: "I hope and expect that it will be completed" before the election.
Before adjournment, Daschle said senators would approve the Iraq resolution, a budget enforcement mechanism, homeland security and continuing resolutions, as well as any conference reports and nominations that are "appropriate."
On Iraq, senators are expected to take up the first cloture vote on the resolution Thursday morning when the Senate votes on the version of the bill offered by Governmental Affairs Chairman Joe Lieberman, D-Conn.
Lieberman said Tuesday that he expects to get more than 60 votes for cloture, a vote Daschle called "the key vote, the threshold vote."
Due to Senate procedure, Daschle also filed cloture on the underlying resolution and on the preamble to the legislation.
He said the debate could be wrapped up by the end of the week "depend[ing] on how much cooperation we get."
But if senators-including Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., who has expressed reservations about the resolution-exercise all of the time available to them, Daschle said, the debate could slip into next week.
While Iraq and homeland security dominate the Senate floor, Daschle said he intends to seek unanimous consent each day for the remainder of the session for an unemployment insurance measure that would extend benefits for 13 weeks.
"If the administration said they support it, I have no doubt it would pass in minutes," Daschle said.
He also said he would host an "economic forum" Friday to solicit views from economists on the state of the economy. Daschle said the White House was invited to send a representative, but so far has refused.
Meanwhile, Senate Republicans sources say they plan a dueling economic conference.