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Homeland Hang Ups

Aired November 19, 2002 - 10:02   ET


LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: The homeland security bill faces a decisive vote in the Senate. Now this potentially dooming out cry now is not based on the sweeping changes to government, but some tacked on provisions that some say pander to special interests.
Our congressional correspondent Jon Karl is standing by on Capitol Hill. He's got the latest on this for us.

Good morning, Jon.

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Leon, this vote is less than a half an hour away, and it is getting hot on the Senate floor. If you go right now, I think you've got Tom Daschle now speaking about this provision the Democrats are hoping to pass.

Let's listen in and hear what Tom Daschle is saying.

REP. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MINORITY LEADER: We can do it in a half hour. I urge my colleagues to join us in doing it right. I yield the floor.

KARL: Leon, what's going on here, this is a fascinating development in this homeland security debate that's been going on for months. Senator Daschle is trying to strip from the homeland security bill -- are you with me?

HARRIS: We're still here, John -- go ahead.

KARL: Senator Daschle is trying two strip from the homeland security bill seven provisions that they are calling -- Democrats are calling special interest provisions that have nothing to do with homeland security, at least that's what the Democrats are calling them. They want to strip these from the bill, but the problem is, if those provisions are stripped from the bill, it means that the Senate would have passed a version of homeland security different than what the House passed last week. The House, which has left town for the year, would have to come back to town and negotiate out the differences. It's a long, drawn-out battle here that is going on right now in the Senate.

HARRIS: John, what about the battle lines that are being drawn, because we've seen a couple of important names come up in the last few hours who may be switching sides here between Zell Miller and John McCain.

KARL: Well, it is a fascinating list of senators that could be key here. John McCain has announced yesterday, actually first on CNN, that he will side with the Democrats on this. He doesn't like these provisions that have been added into the bill. He's going to be voting with the Democrats. Meanwhile, Zell Miller, a conservative Democrat from Georgia, is siding with the Republicans. Three other Republicans told CNN this morning that they are undecided, even as we are only a half hour from the vote, three moderate Republicans. The two senators from Maine, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, and Lincoln Chafee, a liberal Republican from the state of Rhode Island.

But, Leon, follow this, a key vote here could be Dean Barkley. Dean Barkley, the temporary senator that was sent here by Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura to fill out Paul Wellstone's -- the rest of his term. He's only a senator for a couple of weeks.

Today, this morning, he actually was the presiding officer, a ceremonial function he played this morning. He is somebody who is saying this morning that he does not like these special interest provisions, that he would be tempted to vote with the Democrats, but the president called him this morning from Air Force One, the president on his way to the NATO summit in Prague, and Dean Barkley's message to the president is, that he could vote fort Republicans if he got something in return.

What he wants in return is something unrelated. He wants a waiver of the welfare bill for Minnesota, a waiver of some welfare provisions for the state of Minnesota. So a fascinating thing, Dean Barkley has only been in town a couple of few weeks, and he's learned the way Washington works.

Now I want to go back to what Tom Daschle said on the floor just a few minutes ago to give you a sense of hot this debate has gotten.


SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MINORITY LEADER: His arrogance is an atrocious demonstration of demeaning the legislative process. They ought to be ashamed of themselves, at the 11th hour, when nobody was watching, when most people had gone home, those people with deep political pockets, those people with the resources to make a difference had inserted in this bill items that the House itself had already voted against.


KARL: Now, Republicans say that Daschle is way off base here. As a matter of fact, Republicans say that what's going on here is the Democrats are actually the ones sticking up for special interests, the special interests of the trial lawyers who would benefit from the unlimited lawsuits that these added provisions would try to place some caps on. So, Leon, we expect the vote within a half hour. At this point, we really don't know how it's going to come out.

HARRIS: Finally, real quick, John, we know that's both end of the spectrum are saying. What about those in the middle? Are the folks in the middle on this issue, are they seeing as simply a special interest here, a special interest boondoggle or what? KARL: Well, they're actually a lot of undecided people in the middle, even as we're only a half an hour from the vote. But there's an honest debate over here, it's not clear that this is simply, you know, pork barrel provisions that were added in, or an effort to try to limit lawsuits that would affect the companies that make things like the smallpox vaccines. So there is a honest debate going on here, and, you know, those in the middle are kind of going back and forth and are being lobbied intensely by the White House.

HARRIS: Got you. Jonathan Karl on Capitol Hill, going to be a very busy and interesting morning for you. So we'll check back with you later on.


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