WASHINGTON - Nevada's Senators defeated the Republican leadership's attempt to override the President's veto of nuclear waste legislation Tuesday by just one vote.
The final tally was 64-35, just shy of the two-thirds majority required to override.
"Today's vote came down to one simple choice: protecting people or protecting profits," said Sen. Harry Reid, the assistant Democratic leader. "The simple truth is that this legislation has nothing to do with public safety or sound science and everything to do with the greed of the nuclear power industry."
Sen. Richard Bryan said leadership's attempt to override President Clinton's veto was their last ditch effort to pass legislation that was "nothing more than a blatant attempt to change the rules in the middle of the game to rig the process in their favor."
They said the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 2000 attempted to turn the process of setting radiation safety standards for the Yucca Mountain facility over to politicians and take it away from scientists.
"Let there be no mistake, if the proponents of storing nuclear waste in Nevada were successful in this latest attempt to gut the radiation standard for Yucca Mountain, the health and safety of hundreds of thousands of Nevadans would have been placed in jeopardy," Bryan said.
The two Democrats said the bill was designed to prevent the final decision on radiation standards for the planned waste dump until after Clinton leaves office.
Reid said leadership apparently believes a Republican administration would look more favorably on changing the rules of the process to make it easier for yucca Mountain to meet critical scientific standards for radiation safety.
"Instead of letting science dictate what should be done, they want to let politics decide, even if that means endangering the lives of millions of Americans who would be threatened by one major train wreck or truck accident involving high-level nuclear waste," said Reid.
"In the end, today's vote should be the final nail in the coffin for the nuclear waste debate in this Congress," said Bryan.
He said his question is why the Republican leadership in Congress even attempted to override Clinton's veto since they lacked the necessary two-thirds in both the Senate and House.
"My only conclusion can be is that this vote was a payback to the nuclear power industry for their years of support," he said.
They were congratulated and joined in celebrating the defeat by Rep. Jim Gibbons - although he carefully avoided attaching any partisan significance to the attempt to push the legislation through.
"Their combined efforts today hammered what I hope is the final nail in the nuke waste coffin for the 106th Congress," said Gibbons.
He said bipartisan efforts by Nevada's congressional delegation have stopped nuclear waste from coming to Nevada for 13 years now.
"Once again, they wasted Congress' valuable time and taxpayer dollars by taking up a bill that was already dead on arrival," he said. "Congress should instead focus on tax cuts, our children's education and shoring up Social Security."