OTTAWA - Conservative leadership in the Senate appeared in disarray Wednesday after fumbling basic procedural motions that could now delay a vote to punt three Tories until next week.
The rookie team consisting of government leader Claude Carignan and his deputy, Yonah Martin, also appear willing to cave to the concerns of a handful of outspoken Conservatives who want to water down motions to expel the trio.
An attempt late Tuesday night to retreat from the suspension without pay and benefits for Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau failed to get unanimous consent after an Independent senator. She balked, saying she wasn't consulted beforehand about the softening Tory position.
Liberal senators supported discussing whether to allow the senators to maintain benefits while under suspension for spending violations.
They are now also being investigated by the RCMP.
It was far from clear Wednesday whether a majority of the 60-member Senate Conservative caucus would vote in favour of allowing the three senators to still claim medical coverage.
Depending on the outcome of procedural wrangling, a vote could come Friday.
Events in recent days could delay things until Monday.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper and others in his caucus have blamed the delays in the Senate on Liberal tactics to drag out the proceedings.
The Liberals have a motion of their own to use a Senate committee as a forum for the three senators to plead their cases before a final decision is made on a suitable punishment.