Senator Majority Leader Bob Dole, trying to buy time to close a split among factions of his party, Tuesday abruptly abandoned his pledge to complete action on welfare reform before the August recess.
Dole’s announcement came after he failed in a last attempt to work out a compromise. As senators continued hours of passionate debate on the floor, the Kansas Republican met behind closed doors to try to bridge the gap between welfare reforms sought by moderate and conservative members of his party.
By Tuesday evening, only 34 of the Senate’s 54 Republicans had officially committed to support Dole’s measure.
After failing, Dole said he would continue to negotiate with Republicans over the next couple days and intends to introduce a revised measure on Friday.
“I think that at that point we would be, hopefully, very very close to having every Republican on board,” Dole said.
The decision to postpone action was viewed as a temporary setback for Dole.
Moderate Republicans were attempting to include guarantees that children whose parents were forced to work would be provided with day care. They also sought to require states to continue to contribute their own funds to their welfare programs.
Conservative Republicans, led by Sen. Phil Gramm, R-Texas, pressed for provisions forbidding states from granting cash benefits to teenage moms or from increasing the size of assistance checks for welfare parents who have additional babies.
Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., embraced Dole’s decision to delay action and conceded that Democrats were not willing to wrap up debate.
“It’s too big an issue” to rush it through, Daschle told reporters.