Vote on homeland bill not likely before November election
Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., plans to pull homeland security legislation from the floor after Senate Republicans Tuesday afternoon again defeated, 52-45, the last of a half-dozen motions to shut down debate on the bill. Barring an improbable, 11th-hour compromise, the move means that the Senate will not be able to approve the creation of a Homeland Security Department before the November election.
Republican lawmakers and candidates Tuesday continued to blame Senate Democrats for blocking the bill-while Democrats said Republicans blocked the bill by defeating the procedural motions to limit debate and move to a final vote. Key senators plan to meet Tuesday to see if they can strike a last-minute deal to break the impasse.
In other Senate action, Daschle hopes to reach a deal with the White House that would allow the Senate to begin considering the Iraq resolution Wednesday morning. Democrats would like to narrow the focus of the administration's resolution to provide a more limited authority for President Bush to use military action in the region.
Rep. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, Tuesday sought to dispel the notion the White House has not been willing to compromise on labor flexibility issues for the new department, but also argued the compromise authored by Sens. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., John Breaux, D-La., and Lincoln Chafee, R-R.I., would not give the president the flexibility he needed to defend homeland security. "Without flexibility, this department should not be created and would not work," Portman said, after detailing how the administration moved toward the labor provisions included in the House-passed bill.
Portman, a member of the House GOP leadership, said he thought the Senate could still complete homeland security legislation. "We're at the point where we need to see some movement in the Senate this week. It would be a tragedy if we have to postpone this to next year," he said.
Meanwhile, National Treasury Employees Union President Colleen Kelley Tuesday made a pitch for the Nelson-Breaux-Chafee amendment, which she said was modeled after IRS personnel language that Congress approved in 1998. "The model in use at the IRS is being held up as an example of the personnel flexibilities the administration wants in the new department," Kelley said. "I cannot understand why the administration doesn't recognize this very same model in the Nelson-Chafee-Breaux amendment."