The Senate will vote on final passage of a bill intended to enact several Sept. 11 Commission recommendations Tuesday, stretching debate on the bill into a third week, after lawmakers settled disputes holding up its consideration.
The agreement to hold the vote came Friday after senators voted 69-26 to limit debate on a substitute amendment to the bill (S 4) that would add a broad package of homeland security measures. Senators earlier voted 46-49 to reject cloture on a Republican package of immigration and national security amendments.
The bill's floor manager, Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Joseph I. Lieberman, I-Conn., said votes on germane amendments would occur before final passage.
Sen. Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., had pushed hard in recent days for a vote on an amendment to waive matching requirements for federal disaster aid to communities affected by hurricanes Katrina and Rita. But it appears that will not occur, because the amendment is not germane to the legislation.
Landrieu received a commitment from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to consider the amendment when the Senate debates a supplemental spending bill for fiscal 2007. Reid meanwhile pushed for President Bush to repeal the matching requirement,which he said would eliminate the need for legislative action.
"The president doesn't need legislation," Reid said. "He has the authority to do it right now, and I would hope he would do that."
Aides said Landrieu reached a last-minute agreement Thursday with Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., to put a two-year sunset on the waiver amendment, but another senator objected to the compromise.
A second Landrieu amendment -- which would forgive disaster relief loans to hurricane-affected communities -- was placed on a list of amendment slated for unanimous consent, according to Lieberman. But party leaders have not yet agreed to clear that list of amendments.
Landrieu likely will receive a vote however on an amendment to classify levees as critical infrastructure, qualifying the levees for homeland security grants. Lieberman said the levee amendment would be considered germane under the cloture rules.
Senate Republicans, led by Jim DeMint of South Carolina, have complained that Democrats would not allow consideration of their amendments to the bill and have consequently blocked action on a number of Democratic amendments. Reid has said that the Republican amendments -- which include measures to criminalize the recruitment of terrorists, prolong the time that the Homeland Security Department can detain "dangerous aliens," and authorize the deportation of suspected terrorists whose visas are revoked -- should not be considered as part of a bill meant to enact Sept. 11 commission recommendations.
Republicans point to inclusion of a provision in the bill that would give airport screeners collective bargaining rights, which they contend is not related to security.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said he likely will vote against final passage of the bill because of the collective bargaining provision.
"It has a fatal defect," McConnell said. "It has unfortunately turned into a reward for big labor."
On Wednesday, McConnell made the unusual move for a minority party leader of filing cloture on an amendment sponsored by John Cornyn, R-Texas, that merged five of the Republican measures. He defended the move Friday, saying that it became a valid option when Democrats blocked votes on Republican amendments.
"I thought it was totally justified," he said.
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