POLITICS WON OVER PURPOSE AS AN EARLY VOTE on a nuclear waste bill in the U.S. Senate was itself laid to waste, apparently victim of a contested Senate seat in the state where spent fuel would be stored.
The June 2 vote would have limited debate on H.R. 1270. By getting a vote count, the leanings of senators on the bill would have been tested. And the way would have been paved for Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) to schedule a second, more formal vote on the measure.
But nine Democrats who supported a similar bill last April 15 in a 65-34 count - with one not voting - changed their vote, causing the cloture to go down 56-39. This time around, five senators didn't vote; 60 yeas are needed to invoke the cloture to end a filibuster.
Politics began intervening the day before the Senate tally when Rep. John Ensign (R-Nev.) released a statement saying that House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) didn't intend to call up the legislation this year. Rep. Gingrich, just minutes before the Senate ballot, released a statement saying it was unlikely the bill would make it past the president's veto to become law. Because of the crowded floor calendar and opposition of some members, he said he didn't expect to schedule floor action this year.