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FRIST WEIGHING WHETHER TO CALL UP CLASS ACTION BILL.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) was still undecided Feb. 6 whether he would call up the class action bill, S. 1751, when the Senate finishes the transportation reauthorization bill.

Frist struggled last week to keep the Senate on schedule as Senate offices closed after deadly Ricin powder was found in mail addressed to him.

But he also faced uncertainty not only about when but whether the transportation reauthorization bill would get through the Senate after several key Republican senators opposed moving forward quickly with the bill because of budgetary concerns.

In addition, he faced personal criticism from conservatives for firing his legal counsel, Manuel Miranda, for allegedly leaking confidential Democratic documents on judicial nominations to the press. And Frist faced concerns about what the Democrats would do if he called up S. 1751.

Democrats are expected to offer numerous non-germane amendments if he does call up the bill. Frist would need 60 votes to stop them, which he is not sure he will have.

With the ongoing Democratic presidential contest, Democrats could use this opportunity to focus attention on Senate debates over repeal of the Medicare prescription drug law as well as the proposed Bipartisan Patient Protection Act.

Frist had planned to move S. 1751 through the Senate quickly after three Democratic senators, Mary Landrieu (LA), Christopher Dodd (CT) and Charles Schumer (NY), decided late last year to support the bill after several changes were made, giving him 62 votes to cut off debate.

But two of those senators he counted in the 62 votes now are saying they are not sure they support the changes that were made. They are Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and James Jeffords (I-VT). And one other senator who was counted in the 62, Landrieu, see no reason not to have two weeks of debate before having to vote up-or-down on the measure.
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Publication:Liability & Insurance Week
Date:Feb 9, 2004
Words:309
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