- The Washington Times - Monday, April 2, 2001

Rep. Charles B. Rangel foresees enactment of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance bill by both the Senate and the House, but he predicts the measure will not survive House-Senate conference negotiations and will not become law.
"You can bet your life that, in conference, [Republicans] will put a poison pill in it, and it will never reach the president," Mr. Rangel, ranking Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee, said yesterday on CNN's "Late Edition."
The New York Democrat made his comments on the eve of a scheduled Senate vote today on the bill that would ban unregulated soft-money contributions to political parties from corporations, unions and individuals.
Senate passage today of McCain-Feingold is seen as a near certainty. Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican and the bill's co-sponsor, told NBC's "Meet the Press" that as many as 60 senators could approve the measure.
However, some top House Republicans led by Majority Whip Tom DeLay of Texas are vowing to give the measure a tough fight in their chamber.
In addition to banning soft money, the McCain-Feingold bill would restrict late campaign broadcast advertising by outside groups and political parties that support or attack candidates but escape regulation because they stop short of explicitly advocating anyone's defeat or election.
The measure would also raise the limit on individual hard-money donations or those to specific candidates from $1,000 to $2,000.
Rep. Thomas M. Davis III, Virginia Republican, told NBC's "Meet the Press" he sees no need for hasty House consideration of the bill. "This is not as important" as the proposed fiscal 2002 budget, tax cuts and education reform, said Mr. Davis.
He said he believes the House should vote on those measures first and that consideration of McCain-Feingold can be delayed until close to the end of the congressional session this fall.
Mr. Davis, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, also said he will push to raise to $3,500 the limit on regulated individual hard-money donations.
He argued that the increase he is seeking is "commensurate with [the rise in] inflation," that has occurred since 1974, when the current hard-money limit was imposed.
But Tim Russert, host of "Meet the Press," countered that Mr. Davis' proposal would be a "poison pill" for McCain-Feingold, which, in the House, goes by the name, Shays-Meehan, after its co-sponsors, Rep. Martin T. Meehan, Massachusetts Democrat, and Rep. Christopher Shays, Connecticut Republican.
"You would kill the bill [with that hard-money amendment] … because Democrats wouldn't support it," Mr. Russert told Mr. Davis.
"It shouldn't be poison," said Mr. Davis.
But Mr. Russert noted that Republicans already have a "very sizable gain over Democrats" in terms of hard-money donations and that Democrats worry the advantage held by Republicans can only widen with an increase in the cap on such contributions.
Mr. Russert also pointed to a story in Thursday's edition of Roll Call magazine, which quoted Mr. DeLay as telling fellow Republicans that some Democrats had offered him assistance in killing Shays-Meehan. The article specifically mentioned House Democratic Caucus Chairman Martin Frost of Texas as having made such an overture.
"Roll Call went on to say: 'According to one senior House Democrat, 40 percent of his Democratic colleagues have privately expressed reservations or outright opposition to Shays-Meehan and are searching for a compromise measure," said Mr. Russert.
Twice before, the House has overwhelmingly passed Shays-Meehan. Mr. Meehan, interviewed on "Meet the Press," denied the bill is in trouble in the House or that there is substantial Democratic opposition to it.
As for when the House will vote on the campaign finance reform bill, the Massachusetts Democrat said, "Certainly by May," since "our goal is to get a bill on the president's desk as soon as possible."
Asked yesterday on CNN if House passage of Shays-Meehan is a "done deal" this time around, Mr. Rangel initially said, "I don't think it's a done deal that McCain-Feingold will pass the House."
He later said the campaign finance bill is "going to pass the House by a very slim margin" but be killed in conference. "Those Republicans do not want [campaign finance] reform," said Mr. Rangel.
Concerns about what might happen to the bill in conference were on a number of people's minds on yesterday's news talk shows. "We'd like to avoid conference if we can," said Mr. Meehan.
But Mr. Davis on "Meet the Press" argued that the bill "needs a lot of work" and that differences that emerge between the Senate and House bills would have to be ironed out in conference.
"It would be really stupid for the House to pass the bill in its current form… . I prefer the status quo over the bill as it's now drafted. This bill would destabilize the political process," said Mr. Davis, also a member of both the Republican steering and policy committees in the House.
Sen. Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican and the Senate's most ardent opponent of McCain-Feingold, believes conference negotiations may offer an opening for the bill's opponents.
"Clearly, the conference … is a time to negotiate with the [Bush] administration and see if we can come up with a bill that actually improves the system," Mr. McConnell told "Fox News Sunday."
McCain-Feingold's supporters worry that the bill could be compromised in conference. On NBC, Mr. McCain said: "I'm not too worried about the bill being destroyed in conference or harmed significantly. But we have to remain vigilant."
On Fox, Mr. McConnell reiterated his pledge that if McCain-Feingold passes both houses of Congress and is signed into law by the president, he will go to court to challenge its constitutionality.
Republican Sen. Don Nickles of Oklahoma, assistant majority leader, said on ABC's "This Week," he believes the bill "probably will pass and become law." But Mr. Nickles said he will be voting against it today, and he predicts "at least a significant part of it will be determined unconstitutional."

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