WASHINGTON (AP) _ A Senate bill to improve voting systems is not dead despite a second failed attempt to end debate, lawmakers say.
Closing debate requires 60 votes in the 100-member Senate; Monday's vote was 51-44. Lawmakers on both sides said they were hopeful a handful of amendments could be resolved in coming days.
``This bill is too important to let go,'' said Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D. ``We recognize the progress that we have made. We're just not there yet.''
Said Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., ``This bill is not a corpse. This bill is alive.''
The Senate was scheduled to move on to its energy bill Tuesday, but will reconsider the election legislation, possibly within days.
``Normally you think when a bill comes down and you go to another subject, that's the end,'' said Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the bill's Republican sponsor. ``That is not the case here.''
The bill now would require first-time voters who register by mail to present photo identification or proof of address when they show up to vote. Voters in Oregon and Washington state vote by mail, though, so they may need to provide identification when registering.
``We are prepared to say you need to have it at the front end of the process,'' Wyden said.
Democrats have been opposed to the identification requirements and initially offered an amendment that would have allowed first-time voters to guarantee their identities by signature, matched by records on file with state or local election officials.
Democrats agreed to pull the amendment as part of the compromise that says the identification provisions won't kick in until 2004. That's when the bill also begins allowing provisional voting, in which people who do not appear on election rolls but say they are eligible to vote could vote. Election officials later would determine whether the ballots were valid.
The House passed its election bill in December. Once the Senate completes its bill, it will be up to House and Senate negotiators to reach a compromise.
Meanwhile, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a sponsor of legislation to limit campaign spending, continued negotiations Monday with McConnell, the chief opponent, on ways to avoid lengthy delays before the bill moves to a final vote.
The bill, which would ban the millions of dollars in unregulated ``soft money'' that corporations, unions and individuals give to national political parties, passed the Senate last year. The House passed a slightly different version last month. Senate supporters hope to pass the House bill and send it directly to President Bush, but McConnell has threatened a filibuster if he doesn't get what he says are minor ``technical'' changes in the bill.
McCain and McConnell said they still differ on whether some of the changes McConnell wants would alter the substance of the bill. McConnell said he would explain his position to a meeting of Senate Republicans on Tuesday before deciding on his course of action.