The Senate on Wednesday rejected a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, but supporters said new votes for the measure represent progress that gives conservative Republicans reason to vote on Election Day. The 49-48 vote fell 11 short of the 60 required to send the matter for an up-or-down tally by the full Senate. The amendment's failure was no surprise, but advocates said the vote reflected growing support of it among senators and Americans.

The USS Cole heads out Thursday from Norfolk, Va., on its first trip to the Middle East since terrorists bombed the ship, killing 17 sailors in Yemen in 2000. An explosives-packed boat rammed the Cole, blasting a huge hole in the hull that required $250 million in repairs. The Cole returned to service in 2003 and 2004 in the Mediterranean Sea.

Senators on both sides of the aisle urged the military to complete its investigation of an alleged US Marine massacre of Iraqi civilians in Haditha so that the Senate Armed Service Committee can call witnesses in its own hearings. Delays, chairman John Warner (R) of Virginia told Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in a letter Tuesday, will mean a "mixture of information, misinformation, and unconfirmed facts will continue to spiral in the public domain."

In Alabama, one of eight states that held primary elections Tuesday, Gov. Bob Riley (R) withstood a gubernatorial challenge within the party from Roy Moore, the former state chief justice who was ousted for his refusal to remove a Ten Commandments monument from a state court building. Lt. Gov. Lucy Baxley won the Democratic nod for governor against former Gov. Don Siegelman, who is on trial on corruption charges. In New Jersey, Tom Kean Jr., the son of a popular former governor, easily won the Republican bid for the job.

During a visit to Omaha, Neb., Wednesday, President Bush stressed the need for immigrants to learn American values and culture if they are to become citizens, Bush said he will sign an executive order creating a task force that will expand English, civics, and history classes to help more foreigners assimilate into America.

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