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Originally published Friday, May 23, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Capital Watch

Senate vote overrides Bush veto of farm bill

With an 82-13 vote, the Senate Thursday completed the override of President Bush's veto of a comprehensive farm bill, shrugging off Republican...

WASHINGTON — With an 82-13 vote, the Senate Thursday completed the override of President Bush's veto of a comprehensive farm bill, shrugging off Republican concerns about an embarrassing legislative glitch and making the $290 billion bill the law of the land.

House GOP leaders continued to grumble that Democrats had violated the Constitution by pressing forward with the veto override after they discovered a section of the bill on trade policy had been inadvertently dropped from the version vetoed Wednesday.

But Democratic leaders said they had court precedent and constitutional scholars on their side.

"The veto override will have the force of law," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

Washington Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, both Democrats, voted to override the veto.

Lawmakers said they would take up the farm law's trade section as a separate bill and pass it after their Memorial Day break.

About two-thirds of the law would pay for nutrition programs such as food stamps. About $40 billion is for farm subsidies and almost $30 billion would go to farmers to idle their land and for other environmental programs.

Official: Lab's move not fully assessed

The Homeland Security Department, which wants to move research on highly contagious animal diseases from an island lab to the mainland, never fully assessed the move's safety, an official of Congress' investigative arm told lawmakers Thursday.

Democrats on the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations want to hold up the move, which administration officials insisted was safe.

If cattle killer foot-and-mouth disease were to escape the lab and begin infecting cattle, it could force the slaughter of millions of large animals, disrupt food supplies and spark an export ban, the panel was told.

According to Nancy Kingsbury, a senior official of the Government Accountability Office, the department never addressed the dangers or the history of accidental releases.

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Since 1955, foot-and-mouth research has been confined to laboratories on 840-acre Plum Island, off the northeastern tip of New York's Long Island. Homeland Security is considering five possible mainland sites: Athens, Ga.; Flora, Miss.; Manhattan, Kan.; Butner, N.C.; and San Antonio. Upgrading Plum Island is also an option.

Airline delays a blow to economy

Delays last year in the nation's aviation system delivered a staggering blow to the economy, costing passengers, airlines and related businesses $41 billion, according to a congressional study released Thursday.

"With delays going through the roof and the economy squishy soft, delays' impact on the economy is very severe," said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., chairman of Congress' Joint Economic Committee, which released the report.

The Memorial Day weekend marks the start of the peak season for flight delays as vacation travel ramps up and thunderstorms, one of the leading causes of delays, begin striking the country. Last summer, flight delays were the worst on record, particularly in New York's three airports.

Last year's gridlock prompted airlines and the government to take numerous steps to ease congestion. The Department of Transportation limited flights into New York's airports to stem some delays, and the Federal Aviation Administration has opened new routes to allow for more flights.

Also

The Senate and the White House broke off talks late Thursday on confirming dozens of nominees, including President Bush's choice for housing secretary, Steven Preston, until at least next month.

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