Senators bridled at the clawback language, which they believed would discourage any film or TV producer from wanting to work in Maryland. In a tense negotiation late Monday night, they insisted the provision be dropped, But House members stood firm. And despite a frantic scramble in the waning minutes, the bill failed to pass, leaving many wondering what happened.

"I've been down here since 1976," said Evans, the "House of Cards" lobbyist. "I've never seen anything like it."

Miller defended the Senate's decision not to accept House language. "It sent a horrible message to the business community," he said. Senators also received advice from an assistant attorney general that the "clawback" language the House insisted on was of questionable legality.

But Frick, who had proposed the "eminent domain" language, remained unmoved.

Frick called it "nuts" for senators not to want to protect the state from being pressured to come up with bigger and bigger incentives by threats to leave. And he said he didn't think such a provision would dissuade other producers from wanting to work here. "They're getting free money, they'll come," he said.

The other TV series that has filmed in Maryland issued a reassuring statement Tuesday.

"HBO has had a long history of shooting long form projects in Baltimore dating back to 'The Corner,'" said Cecile Cross-Plummer, a spokeswoman for "Veep."

"It's a fantastic place to realize 'Veep,'" she added, "and we know the producers look forward to returning to Baltimore."

Some think "House of Cards" is unlikely to leave even if the state can't offer all the incentives producers hoped for, because it would be costly to set up elsewhere.

"Once you're rooted, at least from my perspective, it would make more sense to stay," said Bryan Deehring, a Maryland-based producer who said he's filming out of state now.

Big-name productions like "House of Cards" and "Veep" help attract others, he noted.

"Selfishly I want them to stay," Deehring said.

Baltimore Sun reporter Michael Dresser contributed to this article.

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