WASHINGTON — The Senate refused Tuesday to take up a fiercely contested bill to create a temporary nuclear waste storage facility in the Nevada desert after critics charged that debate over it would thwart action on other legislation.
Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who with Sen. Richard H. Bryan (D-Nev.) led the fight against the nuclear waste bill, said Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Frank H. Murkowski (R-Alaska) told him after the vote that no further attempts will be made this year to force Senate action on the measure.
The Senate vote to proceed with action on the legislation was 56 to 39, four votes short of the 60 needed to break a filibuster promised by Bryan and Reid, with backing from Democratic leaders.
The bill fared no better in the House on Tuesday. Just as the Senate was voting, Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), citing a "crowded calendar and the strong opposition of some members," said he also expected no action this year.
Gingrich also attempted to shield Rep. John E. Ensign (R-Nev.), who is challenging Reid in the November elections, from any political fallout from the Republican push for the waste bill, which is decidedly unpopular in Nevada. Ensign has been a "forceful and effective voice for the citizens of Nevada in opposing the nuclear waste bill," said Gingrich.
Both houses previously had voted in favor of the legislation. But President Clinton had threatened to veto it, and the Senate appeared at least two votes short of the two-thirds' majority required to overturn a veto.