Bush, Senate GOP win big on homeland security bill

President Bush won a hard-fought victory Tuesday on homeland security legislation when the Senate rejected a Democratic effort to strip controversial amendments to the bill and then passed it on a 90-9 vote.

President Bush won a hard-fought victory Tuesday on homeland security legislation when the Senate rejected a key Democratic amendment that would have delayed approval of a Homeland Security Department until next month at the earliest.

The 52-47 vote Tuesday morning cleared the way for final approval of the bill later that night on a 90-9 vote, ending a four-month partisan fight.

In the skirmish earlier in the day, three Democrats and independent Sen. Dean Barkley of Minnesota joined all but one Republican in rejecting the amendment by Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., that would have stripped seven controversial add-ons to the bill. If the Senate had accepted the amendment, the House would have had to return to work out a compromise on the bill, perhaps stretching the post-election lame-duck session into late December.

Instead, the Senate prepared for adjournment Wednesday after approving other pending measures, including a continuing resolution to fund the government through Jan. 11.

A spokesman for House Majority Whip Tom DeLay, R-Texas, who had said the House would return if the amendment had been adopted, said, "We're very pleased that this bill is one step closer to the president's desk and one step closer to defending the homeland."

The Bush administration and Republican leaders prevailed on the amendment after promising the moderate wing of their party that they would revisit three controversial elements of the bill early next year.

Maine Republican Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe secured commitments from party leaders to consider legislation early next year to address provisions that would provide liability protections for makers of certain vaccine preservatives, permit U.S. companies that move overseas to win contracts from the new department and create a homeland defense research center.

"We would not have agreed to vote against the amendment had we not secured these commitments," said Collins. Minority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., speaking on the Senate floor, said: "There are some things in this bill that stink ... We will change that. You have my commitment."

House Republican and White House officials also promised to revisit the provisions in the first appropriations bill that moves through Congress next year. The pledges secured votes from the Maine senators and cemented the support of Sen. Lincoln Chafee, R-R.I., and two Democrats who sponsored competing homeland compromises: Sens. Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Zell Miller of Georgia.

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., sealed the fate of the amendment by casting the 51st vote against it. Landrieu, who faces a difficult runoff re-election Dec. 7, spent most of the vote huddling with Democratic leaders.

Meanwhile, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., was the lone Republican to join Democrats. On Monday, a McCain spokesman blasted the provisions as a "special-interest bonanza." The Senate's other independent, Sen. James Jeffords of Vermont, voted with the Democrats as he usually does.

Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., is in Paris and did not vote. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, ended his self-imposed period of mourning and returned to Washington for the first time since the death of his close friend Sen. Paul Wellstone, D-Minn., in order to cast his vote for the amendment.