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Senate caps debate on suspension motions

By Jessica Murphy, Senior Washington Correspondent

Senators Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau. (REUTERS)

Senators Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau. (REUTERS)

OTTAWA - Time is finally ticking down on the drawn-out debate over expelling three wayward senators without pay.

Senators voted 51-34, with 12 abstentions, to cap debate on a watered down motion that would strip Pamela Wallin, Mike Duffy and Patrick Brazeau of their pay, but allow them to keep health and life insurance benefits.

Deciding votes on the suspensions will take place Tuesday afternoon. Senators may also be allowed to vote separately in each case on the sanctions.

The three are facing disciplinary measures over spending violations.

Tory Sen. Yonah Martin, deputy government leader in the Senate, argued it was beginning to feel like Groundhog Day in the upper chamber, with debate going in circles since the first suspension motion was introduced Oct. 22.

And the government's point man in the Senate, Claude Carignan, said it was high time to toss the trio out.

"It is the Prime Minister's and my view that these three senators who abused the taxpayer should not be collecting a public paycheque," he said.

Liberal Sen. Dennis Dawson stood to oppose the time allocation motion because he wanted continued public airing of Duffy, Wallin and Brazeau's defence.

"We have learned more in the last two weeks than we have from the government in six months," he said. "If we do not keep this debate going the truth will not come out."

The cornered trio have fought on the Senate floor against being punished, pleading for clemency from colleagues, and arguing they're being denied a fair hearing and are victims of shifting Senate rules.

Duffy used his platform to toss bombshell accusations at the Prime Minister's Office and revealing the party cut a $13,560 cheque to cover his legal bills.

On Monday, Brazeau sent a letter to parliamentarians arguing his spending was in line and warning them they too may end up "scapegoated" as an "entitled 'fatcat'."

"Colleagues, if this happens to me, it can happen to you," he wrote. "I recommend you have a lawyer examine all the claims you submit before you submit them."

The Senate Liberals have been pushing for all three senators to be able to plead their cases before a televised committee.

A handful of Tory senators and MPs also balked what they say is a failure of due process.

Last week, a visibly frustrated Prime Minister Stephen Harper called on the Senate to quickly dispense of the Conservative-appointed trio.


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