WASHINGTON (AP) -- Senate debate over the proposed Homeland Security Department is in its third week with no end in sight, leading the White House and congressional Republicans to step up pressure on Democrats for action.
"I fear the Senate Democrats are fiddling while Rome has the potential to burn," Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., said Tuesday.
"It's being talked to death," added White House spokesman Ari Fleischer.
The main senator behind the delay is West Virginia Democrat Robert Byrd, the Senate Appropriations Committee chairman and self-appointed guardian of congressional prerogatives.
Byrd has talked for hours over three days on the Senate floor about the need for careful, deliberate examination of President Bush's proposal to merge 22 federal agencies into a massive, 170,000-employee Homeland Security Department.
"Congress must never act recklessly," Byrd said. "My concerns are based in the Constitution."
Despite Byrd's oratory, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., insisted Democrats were not stalling. Daschle offered a motion Tuesday that would cut off debate on the Democratic version of the homeland security bill, provided at least 60 of the 100 senators agree when the matter comes to a vote Thursday.
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