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Mitchell Vows to Hold Senate in Session to End Filibusters

By Helen Dewar
The Washington Post
WASHINGTON

Senate Republicans Monday threatened to block major education, environmental and lobbying legislation, prompting Majority Leader George J. Mitchell, D-Maine, to warn that the Senate will stay in session as long as it takes to end the delaying tactics.

Even if it means a delay in Congress's scheduled adjournment Friday, "we're not going to leave until we get action one way or the other" on the three bills and two nominations that Republicans are blocking with filibusters, Mitchell told the Senate. The same threat will apply to other delaying tactics aimed at running out the clock on bills that are still on Congress's agenda, a Mitchell aide said.

As the Senate convened for what was supposed to be its final week, Mitchell asked Republicans if he faced filibusters against legislation to reauthorize federal school aid and a separate measure to strengthen lobbyist registration and gift laws. They said yes.

Coupled with an off-again, on-again filibuster against legislation to protect California deserts and simultaneous filibusters against the two nominations, the Senate is now pinned down under five filibusters at the same time, which Mitchell described as unprecedented in his 15 years in the Senate.

Even if the filibusters are broken, senators can talk for another 30 hours before a final vote can be taken - which could take the Senate until next week to finish its work.

In the first effort to break the filibusters, the Senate last night voted 63-32 - three votes more than required - to invoke cloture and force a vote on the nomination of Ricki R. Tigert as chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. GOP critics had charged she was too close to President Clinton and a bad choice in light of investigations into the Whitewater land development controversy. The Senate will vote Tuesday on Tigert's nomination.

A vote will be held Tuesday on ending a filibuster against Clinton's nomination of U.S. District Judge H. Lee Sarokin to the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia.

The education bill, which passed the House Friday by a vote of 262-132, will come up for a filibuster showdown Wednesday. The legislation reauthorizes $13 billion in school aid and targets compensatory education spending more narrowly to districts with the highest poverty rates.