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Huge spending bill blocked in Senate

Democrats angry over several issues in omnibus measure

By Ted Barrett
CNN Washington Bureau

Democrats angry over several issues in omnibus measure

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Senate Democrats and a handful of Republicans blocked a giant spending bill Tuesday, but Senate leaders from both parties said they expect the legislation to pass by week's end.

Democrats are angry over provisions related to food labeling, overtime pay, media ownership rules and other issues, and some fiscal conservatives are upset with the bill's cost.

With a vote of 48-45, Republicans fell short in their attempt to end a Democratic-led filibuster of the $820 billion bill.

It was the first vote of the new year and came hours before President Bush was scheduled to go to Capitol Hill to deliver his State of the Union address.

With billions of dollars in spending increases at stake for politically popular programs ranging from veterans health care to HIV/AIDS care in Africa, Republican leaders said they were confident many Democrats would eventually support passage even if a handful of rank-and-file Republicans held out against it.

"We're not going to remove anything," Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, a Republican leader, said about the contentious policy provisions. "We're not changing this bill, period."

Democratic leaders -- themselves split over the bill -- acknowledged they would not be able to maintain the filibuster they began late last year.

But Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota said his party would make election-year hay of the various policies in hopes of winning support for Democratic candidates. "They have not heard the end of this," he declared.

A second vote could come as early as Thursday, said Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee.

He said the Senate might address some of the Democratic concerns in separate legislation, but he said this spending bill would not be reopened.

The sweeping bill lumps together seven separate spending bills for the current fiscal year.

It includes several controversial provisions backed by the White House. Among them:

• Language to delay country-of-origin labeling on meat -- an issue that gained attention after mad cow disease was recently discovered in the United States.

• New overtime pay provisions that critics charge will strip millions of white-collar workers of extra money for their overtime hours.

• Language to let new Federal Communications Commission rules go into effect that allow media companies to increase the number of television stations they own despite broad congressional opposition to the policy.

Some senators, including Republicans, don't like the thousands of home-state earmarks in the bill. Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona called the bill a "disgrace" and an "outrage to the American people."

The House already has passed the bill, which means it cannot be amended to make the changes Democrats demand without another vote in the House, something House Republican leaders say they won't do.

Republican Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska, who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee, said the bill must be dispensed with quickly so lawmakers can start writing spending bills for next year.


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