John Kerry (search) plans to be a no-show at the Democratic presidential debate in Iowa on Monday.

While campaigning in New Hampshire on Saturday, Kerry announced that he'd be returning to Washington to help his Senate colleagues filibuster the Medicare (search) bill.

The measure narrowly passed the House in the early hours Saturday.

Kerry called the legislation "a boondoggle for the pharmaceutical industry and a raw deal" for the nation's elderly.

"That is why I am going to join Senator Ted Kennedy to lead the filibuster of this legislation," said Kerry. "Unfortunately that means I will miss the debate in Iowa. But I think the people of Iowa will understand that potential harm of this bill is worth the effort."

Former Vermont governor Howard Dean and Rep. Dick Gephardt (search), D-Mo., are locked in a tight battle for the top spot in the Jan. 19 caucuses in Iowa, but Kerry is close behind in most polls.

A spokeswoman for Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., said he would be leaving Iowa tomorrow to return to Washington to fight the bill. "We hope we won't have to miss the debate, but we may have to," said spokeswoman Jennifer Palmieri.

Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman had decided earlier this month to pull out of the debate in Des Moines to spend the day campaigning in New Hampshire. His campaign announced Saturday that Lieberman will be in Washington instead on Monday, although spokesman Jano Cabrera said the senator has not yet decided whether to support the Medicare bill or if he'd join the filibuster.


DETROIT (AP) — Howard Dean (search) touted his union endorsements Saturday as he tried to solidify support in Michigan ahead of the state's Feb. 7 caucuses.

"People used to say my campaign didn't have much diversity. Well, here we all are — green and purple and black and yellow," he said to a crowded auditorium of supporters in decked out in union T-shirts.

Many of those in the audience and sharing the stage with him were black, and the rally in Detroit featured Motown music and the singing of the Service Employees International Union Local 79 choir.

Union leaders from SEIU, the American Federation of State (search), County and Municipal Employees and the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades promoted Dean's agenda and bashed the Bush administration.

The three unions, which have at least 100,000 members in Michigan and more than 3.1 million nationally, have all endorsed Dean.

"I work with families every day who don't have enough money to pay their health bills, and Dr. Dean is going to change that," said Ziggy Mersha, a Head Start worker in Saginaw and a member of SEIU Local 517M. He led workers in a chant of "Push Bush out the door, elect Dean 2004."