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Bid to Break Filibuster on Defense Fails

May 15, 1987|Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Democrats failed today to smash a GOP blockade of a military budget bill, and victorious Republicans said they have the votes to sustain their filibuster against restrictions on President Reagan's "Star Wars" missile defense program.

The Democratic-controlled chamber voted 52 to 36 to choke off the opposition's tactics, but Senate rules require 60 votes to curb what can otherwise be unlimited debate.

Majority Leader Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.) said he will call a second vote on ending the filibuster next Tuesday.

Republican leader Bob Dole of Kansas promised that his party will continue to block consideration of the $303-billion defense authorization bill until Democrats agree to remove the "Star Wars" restrictions from it.

"The President can't negotiate with the Soviets and the Congress at the same time," Dole said.

If the Democrats' language is allowed, he said, Reagan should call his arms control negotiators home from Geneva and "send Senate people over in their place."

"You're taking away the President's leadership," said Dole, a 1988 presidential hopeful. "I hope whoever's going to take Ronald Reagan's place will have a little freedom."

The Republicans oppose an amendment by Sen. Sam Nunn (D-Ga.), chairman of the Armed Services Committee, that would ban spending for "Star Wars" tests that violate the existing, or narrow, interpretation of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty until both houses of Congress approved.

Nunn said that to do otherwise would be telling the President to "go out there and test anything you want to. Don't worry about our allies, don't worry about the Senate."

Reagan has asserted that he has the constitutional right to move to a broad interpretation of the ABM pact. The broad view would allow "Star Wars" tests, while the narrow view would ban tests of the Strategic Defense Initiative, as "Star Wars" is formally known.

"The President wants a blank check postdated to the time after he decides which interpretation to follow," said Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), who wrote the amendment with Nunn. "No Congress should abdicate its constitutional responsibilities by signing such a check."

Nunn promised to hold fast, saying that the Pentagon needs the defense bill and that Republicans are eventually going to have to allow action on the amendment on that or other legislation.

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