Sen. Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) was searching for the 11 votes needed to break a Democratic filibuster blocking approval of the giant federal spending bill that also would set the national TV-ownership limit at 39% of television homes.
A cloture vote to end debate on the bill was supported 49-45, but 60 votes are needed to end the discussing and bring the spending bill to the floor. Senate opponents of legislation can filibuster--or hold endless debate--until supporters muster sufficient votes stop discussion.
Senate Democratic leaders aim to maintain the filibuster long enough to force the GOP majority to renegotiate the package. The House passed the appropriations bill in December.