Some misguided Republicans in Congress surprise even other Republicans at times. Can we all say "special interest money?" http://www.armytimes.com/story.php?f=1-292925-997330.php Senate Republican leaders decided Tuesday that a gun manufacturers liability bill is more important than next years $441.6 billion defense authorization bill. With Democrats expressing amazement that there could be any higher legislative priority in a time of war than the annual defense bill that includes money for pay and benefits, operations and maintenance, and weapons purchases and research, Sen. Bill Frist of Tennessee, the Senate Republican leader, decided Tuesday that a bill protecting gun manufacturers from lawsuits over the illegal use of firearms was a higher priority. The decision came after Republican leaders failed to muster the 60 votes needed to prevent amendments not strictly related to the defense budget from being offered to the defense bill. In a count of 50-48, seven Republicans joined Democrats in voting not to restrict debate, a move that Democratic leaders said would have prevented consideration of amendments to help veterans and survivors of deceased service members, along with other issues. With Congress planning to leave town Friday for one-month break, debate on S 397, Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, is expected to last two or three days, and then Senate leaders plan to take up an energy bill, an estate tax reform bill and an Interior Department funding bill that has a $1.5 billion bailout attached for veterans health care programs, leaving no time until September to get back to the defense bill. The House approved its version of the defense bill in May and has been waiting for the Senate to catch up to begin negotiations with the Bush administration on a final version.