Tags: House | Democrats | Remain | Undecided | About | Campaign-Finance | Bill

House Democrats Remain Undecided About Campaign-Finance Bill

Wednesday, 02 May 2001 12:00 AM

"I haven't reached a conclusion about any of the changes they've made," Gephardt said at a House hearing on the issue.

He was referring to the differences between the campaign finance bill passed by the Senate one month ago and similar reform bills that captured House majorities in 2000 and 1999.

"I don't think we know today whether that majority exists for the Senate measure," said Gephardt. "I'm going to try to determine those facts, and both reach a conclusion myself and see where others are."

Gephardt's ambivalence is one of the potential obstacles the McCain-Feingold bill faces in the House, where Democrats are expected to provide the great majority of votes for it.

While the House has twice passed bills similar to McCain-Feingold, the version adopted by the Senate this spring included some new and controversial provisions.

One in particular disturbs some House Democrats; it allows individuals to give twice as much money to federal candidates ($4,000 per election cycle) as they can under current law.

Senate backers, including Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., said that change was part of a fragile compromise needed to get the bill passed.

The bill's core feature is a ban on "soft money," the term for unlimited contributions to the parties. It also places new restrictions on election-time ads aired by interest groups.

Backers of the bill are pushing for a House vote by Memorial Day, but Republican leaders plan to take longer. The House Administration Committee, which held Tuesday's hearing, won't complete work on a bill until late June, Chairman Rob Ney, R-Ohio, said.

"I don't think the American people are on the edge of their seats for this bill," said Ney.

Tuesday's hearing was a chance for the warring sides to resume the debate that began in the Senate in March.

House Majority Whip Tom DeLay, R-Texas, said the bill undermines the parties, protects incumbents, silences citizens and "takes dead aim at the most important protection in the Constitution," free speech.

Rather than there being too much money in politics, said DeLay, "I don't think there is enough money in the campaign-finance system in America today."

He and other opponents also took issue with the notion that campaign money has cast an "ethical cloud" over Congress.

"I don't know of one Democrat or one Republican that is corrupt," he said.

Feingold said the Senate bill was a reasonable effort to restore restrictions on the role of big money in politics.

"The Senate did not lose its mind," he told the House panel.

"We have a system that's corrupting our Democratic institutions," said Connecticut Republican Chris Shays.

Feingold and McCain continued private negotiations Tuesday with allies in the House over how to get the bill through the House with minimal changes.

If the House passes a different bill, it would require a House-Senate conference to iron out the differences, and a second vote in each chamber.

Backers fear the bill would not survive that process intact.

(c) 2001, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

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I haven't reached a conclusion about any of the changes they've made, Gephardt said at a House hearing on the issue. He was referring to the differences between the campaign finance bill passed by the Senate one month ago and similar reform bills that captured House...
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2001-00-02
Wednesday, 02 May 2001 12:00 AM
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