Democrats Block Dole's Missile Defense Bill

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WASHINGTON, D.C.: Bob Dole had hoped to spend his last weeks in the Senate racking up legislative victories that would give him campaign ammunition against Bill Clinton in the fall. Instead, Tuesday saw Dole lose another legislative and political battle in the Senate when the GOP fell seven votes short of the 60 needed to end a Democratic filibuster blocking Dole's bill to build a national missile defense system. Dole had lobbied hard for the bill as part of his effort to differentiate himself from Clinton on military issues. "Clinton has given the military a lot of what it wanted, so the military is not grumbling about Clinton to a big degree," says Pentagon correspondent Mark Thompson. "So Dole is looking to pick a new issue. But military officials are not enamored of this missile defense system, because it takes money away from other military programs they feel are more important." Dole's $5 billion plan would involve the construction of a nationwide system of anti-ballistic missiles by the year 2003 capable of shooting down as many as seven incoming missiles at a time. Although President Clinton has questioned the need for rapid development, Thompson reports that many critics say the system itself is deeply flawed. Opponents contend that the real threat to U.S. security is not from incoming missiles but from terrorists who could smuggle small nuclear, biological or chemical weapons into the country by plane. "If a bad guy wants to cause trouble, he'll use one of those more rudimentary methods, whether or not we have a missile defense shield," Thompson says. "The question is why spend that much money to protect against just one kind of threat? It's like walking through the inner-city carrying an umbrella to protect yourself, when the threat is not rain or hail, but bullets from gangs." -->