On the eve of President Clinton's trip to China, Senate Democrats Tuesday effectively shut down debate on a $271 billion defense bill as a way of blocking votes on China policy.
"I'm not going to allow one single vote on China this week," Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., declared Tuesday. "We're not going to embarrass this president."Daschle then led a Democratic stampede that turned what had been intended as a test procedural vote on a package of China amendments into an ambiguous 82-14 tally.
And he threatened to continue to tie up the Senate until Clinton returns from his 10-day visit to China.
At issue was a package of defense bill amendments by Sen. Tim Hutchinson, R-Ark., that would deny travel visas to Chinese officials involved in religious persecution or forced-abortion policies, ban further U.S.-backed loans to China and modify U.S. policy on satellite exports.
"Far from embarrassing the president, it is incumbent upon us to strengthen his ability to address human rights issues," Hutchinson told the Senate. "We should not pretend there is progress where it has not been demonstrated."
Daschle and other Democrats denounced the move as an attempt to embarrass Clinton as he heads to China.