Procedural haggles continue to stall security bill in Senate

Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., who is managing the bill, decries "political gridlock."

A massive Senate bill to implement unfulfilled recommendations of the 9/11 Commission was stuck in "political gridlock" Thursday as Democrats and Republicans searched for a way to handle dozens of pending amendments.

One of the biggest stumbling blocks involves a dispute over an amendment by Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., that would address disaster assistance to Louisiana. Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., placed a hold on her amendment, prompting Landrieu to put a hold on several other amendments, according to aides.

Senators were also unable to reach agreement to consider amendments en bloc, which would allow the bill to proceed to a final passage vote, aides said. Several senators from both parties would not give unanimous consent to moving the amendments in a package, insisting their individual proposals get up-or-down votes.

Meanwhile, other senators were negotiating the fate of their amendments with Senate leaders.

In a sign of mounting frustration, Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., who is managing the bill, decried what he called "political gridlock," saying some senators are "posturing and game playing." He added: "It's time for us to wake up, focus on what's really important and get this bipartisan bill ... adopted as soon as possible."

Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., held out hope that a final vote could be held Friday. Without a unanimous consent agreement, however, a final vote would not be possible until Saturday at the earliest under Senate rules. An aide for Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., doubted final passage could occur by Friday.

"They can't guarantee it and we can't guarantee it," the aide said. "It's a tricky process to wrap up quickly." This aide said a vote would likely be Tuesday.

Meanwhile, family members of 9/11 victims sent McConnell a strongly worded letter charging the Republican leader with pushing "highly provocative, irrelevant amendments."

The letter did not cite any amendments in particular. But Republicans made a rare procedural move Wednesday, rolling five amendments into one package and submitting a cloture motion on it. The amendments would increase the government's authority to punish, detain or deport foreigners or people suspected of supporting terrorist acts.

"Tactics such as those you are contemplating, which endanger the 9/11 bill, send a signal to America that your priority is partisan politics, not protecting Americans against terrorism," the family members wrote.

A McConnell aide countered by arguing the Republican amendments are all intended to increase the nation's security. The aide also sought to deflect attention to the Democrats by pointing out that the bill faces a presidential veto threat because of its Democratic-backed provision giving federal airport screeners collective bargaining rights.