Tags: McConnell | Lead | Court | Fight | McCain | Finance | Bill

McConnell to Lead Court Fight on McCain Finance Bill

Thursday, 03 May 2001 12:00 AM

LYNCHBURG, Va. - Sen. Mitch McConnell hopes the House of Representatives does its duty, but he's prepared to battle the McCain-Feingold bill straight to the Supreme Court.

The Kentucky Republican, chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, fought, and lost, the fight against this campaign-finance "reform" legislation in the Senate, 59-41. Now it's in the House, where the odds – for now at least – favor its passage.

If this bill – which inflicts severe limitations on issue-advocacy groups' expressing their views as election time rolls around – should clear both houses of Congress, it would then go to President Bush, who has already said he will sign any campaign-finance bill Congress passes.

It is against that background that the Rev. Jerry Falwell invited McConnell to appear on his recent hour-long "Listen, America" televised program devoted to the subject of campaign finance.

When the founder of the Moral Majority asked McConnell what would happen if Bush should sign it, the senator replied:

"This cause will be pursued all the way to the Supreme Court.

"I hope we don't have to go to the expense and the trouble of going to court, but if the president should sign a bad bill I guarantee you we will go to court, and I'll be the plaintiff.

"We will have a number of co-plaintiffs, including some groups on the left who also see this as blatantly unconstitutional.

"We have an excellent chance of winning. I think it will be struck down."

Like Falwell, McConnell is hoping, first, that the House will not follow the Senate's example, that it will kill the McCain-Feingold bill.

Failing that, they both hope Bush will veto it, despite the signs he has been giving to the contrary.

McConnell said he was confident there were enough votes in the Senate to make it safe for the president to veto it.

"Those 41 votes 'no' in the Senate," he said, "are well more than enough to sustain a veto if the president should veto this unfortunate bill, which richly deserves to be vetoed if it goes to him in this form."

The Constitution requires a two-thirds majority in each chamber of Congress to override a president's veto. Thus, 34 of the 100 votes in the Senate could sustain a veto of McCain-Feingold. And 41 senators have already voted against the bill.

Asked by Falwell why "some real good guys in the Senate voted wrongly on this," McConnell said:

"There were a number of Republicans who were hoping that the president would save us from ourselves on this, and he will have a chance probably to do that.

"Even people who know better like to be praised by the New York Times and the Washington Post."

He said those two liberal newspapers – both "big special interests" – are the "only reason this bill passed the Senate."

McConnell called McCain-Feingold "a government blackout of criticism of politicians in proximity to elections."

The bill would make it illegal for nonprofit groups to advertise for or against a candidate, publish "report cards" on votes or even mention a candidate's name in a critical way during a period of 30 days in advance of primaries and 60 days in advance of general elections.

"This is bad for America," McConnell said. "It's particularly onerous for conservatives. It's equally bad to shut up groups we don't agree with.

"The big institutions in America – the press, academia and Hollywood – who have so much to do with the public discourse are on the left.

"They are all totally exempt from this. In fact, their power is enhanced.

"To the extent that conservatives lose their voices in proximity to an election, it's like a big transfer of speech, which is in effect a transfer of power."

If that happens, McConnell said, "somebody else fills the vacuum."

McConnell identified two groups specifically targeted by McCain-Feingold – national political parties, which would be deprived of as much as half of their funds, and issue-advocacy groups "that might want to say bad things about politicians in proximity to an election."

The net effect, and underlying intent, of McCain-Feingold, he said, is "to quiet the voice of critics."

McConnell said that "when you hear the three words – campaign-finance reform – someone's trying to take away your right to speak."

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LYNCHBURG, Va. - Sen. Mitch McConnell hopes the House of Representatives does its duty, but he's prepared to battle the McCain-Feingold bill straight to the Supreme Court. The Kentucky Republican, chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, fought, and lost, the fight...
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Thursday, 03 May 2001 12:00 AM
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