WASHINGTON (AP) – Moving swiftly, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle pledged Thursday to try to pass sweeping legislation to rewrite campaign spending rules the minute we receive it from the House. He said any filibuster was doomed.
This is the year were finally going to pass campaign finance reform, Daschle, D-S.D., said at a combination news conference and celebration arranged by jubilant supporters of the measure less than eight hours after the House approved it.
|On the Net: Information on the bill, H.R. 2356, can be found at http://thomas.loc.gov/|
House spokesman Ari Fleischer did not respond directly when asked whether President Bush would sign the bill designed to reduce the influence of money in political campaigns. The president will wait to be declarative until he sees what the final bill is, Fleischer said, although supporters and opponents alike have predicted for days that Bushs approval was assured.
The developments unfolded as the Senates principal opponent of the measure, Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said he wanted to study the House-passed bill before deciding on a strategy. Either way, he seemed resigned to passage, telling reporters he would be the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit to be filed if the bill became law.
An earlier version of the campaign finance bill, backed by Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Russell Feingold, D-Wis., passed the Senate last year on a vote of 59-41. But one lawmaker who voted in opposition then, Sen. Ernest Hollings, D-S.C., issued a statement indicating that he would support it when it came to the floor. Barring any other switches, that appeared to assure Daschle and the bills supporters the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster.
If I were a Republican up for re-election in the Senate, Id ask myself, Do you want to be part of a continuing filibuster? McCain said.
Supporters say the legislation would help clean up the nations political campaigns by banning soft money, the unlimited donations that unions, corporations and individuals make to political parties. The bill also would curtail late-campaign attack ads that have proliferated in recent years, by prohibiting the use of soft money to pay for them to be broadcast.
Republican critics argue the bill is unconstitutional as well as biased in favor of Democrats.
John Feehery, a spokesman for Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., said the formal paperwork probably would go out from the House in a few days, probably after the start of a weeklong congressional recess beginning Friday.
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Under the Senates rules, opponents have at least two opportunities to derail the bill by forcing supporters to come up with 60 votes, and final passage could consume roughly a week.
Daschle announced his intention to move as quickly as possible came on the heels of a 240-189 vote in the House at 2:30 a.m. Thursday.
The final roll call came at the end of a 16-hour marathon session in which a bipartisan coalition bent, but never broke, in the face of a series of politically appealing amendments by the GOP leadership.
The closest call for the bills supporters came on a proposal to lift all advertising restrictions on commercials relating to the Second Amendment right to bear arms. Supported by the powerful National Rifle Association, the amendment failed narrowly, 219-209 after aggressive lobbying by House Democratic leader Dick Gephardt, D-Mo., as well as Republican supporters of the measure.
McCain, too, spent hours on the House side of the Capitol, monitoring developments and talking with Republican lawmakers from an office one floor beneath the House chamber.
Ironically, he worked from a room just across the hall from a leading House opponent of the bill, Texas Rep. Tom DeLay, the GOP whip.
The thrust of the legislation is to dramatically reduce the amount of money coursing through political campaigns.
The two political parties and their various campaign committees raised more than $500 million combined in soft money in the two years that ended in 2000, and have continued to raise money in large amounts in the months since.
While banning soft money to the national committees, the legislation would permit such donations to state and local parties, so long as the funds were not used in connection with federal campaigns.
Critics of the bill say that a soft money ban to the national parties is futile, and that outside interests would find another avenue for exerting their influence on campaigns.
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