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U.S. citizenship bill for Elian bogged down

The effort to grant U.S. citizenship to 6-year-old Elian Gonzalez has lost momentum on Capitol Hill.

When Sen. Connie Mack introduced the citizenship bill last week, supporters said they hoped it could move swiftly. The Florida Republican even used a parliamentary maneuver so it could come up for a vote Wednesday.

But there have been few signs of progress since then. The bill is not scheduled for action any time soon, and on the House side Speaker Dennis Hastert has not been enthusiastic about the proposal. Hastert spokesman John Feehery said the speaker thinks the fate of the Cuban boy "should be resolved in family court and not in the halls of Congress."

Supporters of the bill acknowledge they face an uphill battle.

Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, R-Miami, said the bill is "in flux" and blamed the news media for "not allowing us to get our message through."

Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla., said the bill has suffered because bad snowstorms in Washington last week shut down Congress for several days.Graham said that the bill isn't dead but that a vote on the issue "would be close."

Opponents say the bill has stalled because there is growing sentiment that Congress should not meddle in the issue.

"I don't think it's coming to the floor," said Rep. Mark Foley, R-West Palm Beach. "It shouldn't be here (in Congress). It's just not the right venue."

Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle said the bill has slowed because "there is growing momentum on both sides of the aisle for letting the boy return."

Mack's bill would grant citizenship to Elian to eliminate immigration issues from the case, allowing Florida courts to decide whether he should be returned to his father in Cuba or stay in Miami with other relatives.

Mack said Wednesday that the bill was still very much alive, but that he did not know how many supporters he had. Three senators have threatened to filibuster the bill, he said, which means he will need 60 votes to get it to pass.

"Moving legislation is always difficult, but at least it's on the (floor)," Mack said. "It would be foolish for me to move forward until I have a sense of where we are."

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