WASHINGTON -- A crucial vote by the Senate on an amendment to kill funding for the $8.25 billion Superconducting Super Collider is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. tonight.

The time for the vote was set on Friday when the Senate agreed to limit debate on the amendment by Sen. Dale Bumpers, D-Ark. It would eliminate the full $550 million in fiscal 1993 funding that the Senate Appropriations Committee approved on July 23 as part of a $22.5 billion energy appropriations bill pending in the Senate.

If the Senate approves the amendment, construction of the giant research project just south of Dallas would grind to a halt. The House voted 232 to 181 in mid-June to cut off funding and kill the project.

But even if the Senate restores funding for the atom smasher, it must be approved by a House-Senate conference committee, where House negotiators are expected to fight to scrap the project.

Both proponents and critics of the collider were guarded in sizing up the amendment's prospects. "We expect to do better than last year," said Sen. Bumpers, when an amendment he proposed to strike the collider's funding curried 37 Senate votes. "But I don't know if we'll a majority."

One of the project's chief proponents, Sen. Lloyd Bentsen, D-Tex., also said he was taking nothing for granted and would ply his colleagues hard to get their votes, particularly senators who have been wavering in their support for the project under strong budgetary pressures this year.

Sen. Bentsen said in a statement that the inclusion of funding in the energy appropriations bill "put us on the right road." But he added that we're not out of the woods yet. The hard part's still ahead of us. Convincing the full Senate will be tough."

Meanwhile , President Bush appeared to be pulling hard to save the project, making a publicity stop at its construction site in Waxahachie, Tex., on Thursday. He contended that collider opponents do not really want to reduce the deficit, as they say, but rather will divert the collider funding into consumption-oriented programs to mollify their constituents.

"They will squander the taxpayers money today rather that invest in our economy with tomorrow in sight," he said. "Make no mistake about it, this is a battle being waged in Congress right now between the patrons of the past and the architects of the future."

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