- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 14, 2001

House Republican leaders yesterday said they will resist efforts to bring up a campaign finance bill for another vote and that its sponsors torpedoed their own bill on the House floor.
"The biggest proponents of campaign finance reform, Chris Shays and John McCain, were the first ones to stab the bill to death," said John Feehery, spokesman for House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert. "They rallied a small band of Republicans to vote against" the rules for debating the bill.
The bill sponsored by Mr. Shays, Connecticut Republican, and Rep. Martin T. Meehan, Massachusetts Democrat, failed Thursday when all but one Democrat and 19 Republicans voted against the procedural motion setting rules for debating the bill. Mr. McCain, Arizona Republican, sponsored the Senate version of the bill and personally enlisted some House Republicans to vote against the motion.
Mr. McCain, speaking in a television interview taped yesterday, said he believes House Republican leaders will give the legislation a second chance.
"I think cooler heads are going to prevail," Mr. McCain said on CNN's "Evans, Novak, Hunt & Shields." "I just hope we'll be able to sit down and cool down over the weekend and work out something that's agreeable so we get a vote" on both the Shays-Meehan bill and a Republican-favored alternative.
The Shays-Meehan bill would ban "soft money," the now-uncapped donations to political parties that are used for get-out-the-vote efforts and issue advertisements that do not explicitly endorse a candidate. The alternative bill, sponsored by Rep. Bob Ney, Ohio Republican, and Rep. Albert R. Wynn, Maryland Democrat, would limit but not ban such donations.
Both Mr. McCain and House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt, Missouri Democrat, yesterday said that if the Republican leaders do not agree to another vote, they would force the Shays-Meehan bill to the floor again with a procedure known as a "discharge petition," in which a majority of the House can sign a petition to force a vote on a bill over the leadership's objections.
"We're going to talk among the sponsors of the bill in the House and Senate and reach a joint decision on when to do this," Mr. Gephardt said.
But Mr. Hastert, Illinois Republican, said after Thursday's vote that he does not plan to bring the Shays-Meehan or Ney-Wynn bills up again. And his spokesman indicated in a memo yesterday that the issue of campaign finance reform is dead for now.
"The speaker kept his word and delivered a fair process," Mr. Feehery said. "That is all anyone can really ask of him."
Republicans said the House has many other items on its immediate agenda, including appropriations bills, a patients' rights measure, a flag-burning amendment and President Bush's proposal to allow religious organizations to help the needy with government grants. The faith-based plan is scheduled to be voted on in the House next week.
"Maybe John McCain doesn't think so, but we do have an obligation to fund the government," said a House Republican aide of lawmakers' other priorities.
Supporters of Shays-Meehan were still crying foul yesterday over the rules devised by Republican leaders for considering the bill. Republicans decided that 12 amendments proposed by Mr. Shays would be voted on individually; Democrats wanted them voted on as one package.
"There was a possibility that we would have lost support using that [Republican] procedure," Mr. McCain said. "It wasn't fair; it wasn't what we were told would be allowed."
Mr. Feehery said Mr. Shays' "real problem was a lack of votes" for his bill.
"So Mr. Shays and Mr. McCain killed the rule," Mr. Feehery said.
Mr. Hastert's spokesman said Mr. Gephardt "followed next in line."
"He held his troops together enough to make certain that the rule went down," Mr. Feehery said. "Gephardt's closest allies, Big Labor and the Black Caucus, hated the bill. If he could somehow show that he was for reform and blame Republicans for killing it, he would. Killing the rule gave him the perfect out."
Former Republican Rep. Bob Walker of Pennsylvania, known as an expert on parliamentary procedure during his House career, said yesterday that Republican leaders simply outfoxed supporters of Shays-Meehan.
"I think they did a brilliant job on the process," Mr. Walker said in an interview. "They structured a process that in the end got the Republican leaders the vote they wanted. It's the Shays-Meehan people who wanted this to come to the floor. I don't think the Republican leadership is sitting around licking their wounds."
Mr. Hastert is known to have favored an up-or-down vote on the merits of the Shays-Meehan bill. But when he tried to amend the rules procedure Thursday to prevent Democrats from defeating the rules motion, House Republicans, led by a core of conservatives, insisted on keeping the original rules procedure.
Mr. Gephardt said House Republican leaders are "going to do everything they can procedurally, technically to stop the bill."
"If they keep trying to do this, I think they're going to offend the American people, and it will have an impact in the next election if they're frustrating the will of a bipartisan majority," Mr. Gephardt said.
Mr. Walker said polls consistently show that the public is not concerned about the issue and applauded Republican leaders for skillfully using parliamentary procedures.
"That's a perfectly legitimate legislative technique," Mr. Walker said. "I don't think anybody in the Republican leadership is sitting around thinking this is a terrible thing, even if they get blamed for killing it. Nobody cares."

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