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Lott Blocks Senate NATO Vote

Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott indefinitely postponed Senate consideration of NATO expansion Friday. The measure had been expected to come to a vote sometime next week.

Lott's action cam less than an hour after President Clinton made a renewed pitch for Senate approval of NATO expansion into Central Europe next year.

Lott, expressing frustration with recent Senate fights that have held up consideration of a Republican education bill, said the NATO enlargement would move behind other more urgent items on the agenda.

"We have not received cooperation on any bill that's come up this year, and I can only do so much to try to get the Senate to focus and complete action and if they don't I have to turn to other emergency matters," he said.

"I do have members on both sides of the aisle urging me to delay it."

Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic were approved for entry to NATO last December, but cannot be admitted until the parliaments of all current NATO members have ratified the move. Canada and Denmark have already done so. The NATO resolution requires approval by two-thirds, or 67 votes, in the Senate.

"Until the Senate indicates a willingness to stay focused and we get a little cooperation and don't have to have a filibuster fight and cloture vote on every bill, then it will just have to come up later," Lott said of NATO, adding it might not come to a Senate vote until after the two-week April recess.

Lott said the Senate would move Monday to consider an emergency supplemental appropriation to pay for troop deployments in Bosnia and the Gulf and for disaster relief, and would attempt again Tuesday to cut off debate on the education bill.

Democrats Thursday blocked the bill to create tax-free education savings accounts.
Earlier Friday, Clinton held an East Room ceremony attended by top national security aides, military leaders and key senators to promote the first NATO enlargement since 1982, when Spain joined.

"The admission of Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic will be a very important milestone in building the kind of world we want for the 21st century," Clinton said.

Written by Robert Burns
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