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Chance for a Noble Farewell : The retiring Mitchell can save desert bill by delaying Senate adjournment

October 07, 1994

Beset by raw, mean-spirited politics, the proposed California Desert Protection Act stands at the precipice. Its fate now rests in the hands of Sen. George J. Mitchell of Maine, the Democratic majority leader. The only way it can become law is for him to hold the Senate in session over this weekend to allow for a final cloture vote and passage.

A few Republicans, motivated solely by the determination to undermine Sen. Dianne Feinstein's bid for reelection, have resorted to every possible stalling tactic. By thwarting the clear bipartisan will of both houses of Congress and the people of California they hope to deny the California Democrat a key legislative victory to tout in her race against Rep. Mike Huffington. The House Rules Committee Thursday sent the final conference report on the bill to the House floor, and final passage there is assured.

However, a handful of Republicans in the Senate have filibustered the bill at every juncture. On the last vote, they lost 73 to 20, with 15 Republicans joining the majority. Only one more cloture vote remains. But Senate rules require a 24-hour notice before such a vote, meaning that the final ballot cannot come before Saturday or Sunday, depending on when the House votes.

The Senate is scheduled to adjourn today. Mitchell has the opportunity to perform one last, noble act before retiring from the Senate: He can keep that body in session for another day or two to salvage the eight years of work that have gone into preserving California's rich desert heritage.

The searing desert is far from the rocky down east coast of Maine, but it is important to all of the nation. We implore Mitchell to do what is right in his final days, by helping defeat the crude partisanship that has gridlocked Congress this year.

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