- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 16, 2001

Sen. John McCain yesterday criticized Republican leaders for a delay in sending his campaign finance bill to the House and took the unusual step of demanding a floor vote to move the Senate-approved measure.
"This is not business as usual," Mr. McCain told his colleagues, urging them to put pressure on Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott. "Holding this bill is arbitrary and unfair."
The Senate voted 61-36 to urge Mr. Lott to send the bill to the House, though the vote was nonbinding. A Republican leadership source said after the vote that Mr. Lott had relented and would send the bill to the House soon.
Mr. McCains direct challenge to Mr. Lotts leadership on the Senate floor yesterday escalated their tense relationship to its highest point this year in the evenly divided chamber. Mr. McCain, who forced the Senate to debate his bill in March, said he confronted Mr. Lott last week about the delay.
"What we are seeing here is a minority of one stopping this bill," Mr. McCain said in reference to Mr. Lott.
Said Lott spokesman Ron Bonjean, "Its unfortunate that Senator McCain has chosen to stall the presidents top priority — education reform — in an attempt to coerce the House into taking up the Senates version of campaign finance reform. The House should be permitted to work its will on this issue."
Neither Mr. Lott nor his spokesman explained yesterday why the bill had not been sent to the House, although Mr. Bonjean did say the House had announced a timetable for taking up the issue in midsummer.
Republican leaders in the Senate and House appeared puzzled by the Arizona Republicans complaint, saying the parliamentary delay in sending the Senate bill to the House has had no practical effect on the timetable for action there.
"I dont think it makes much difference one way or the other," said Sen. Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican and leading Senate opponent of the bill. "The House is going to take up its own version of it at some point."
House Majority Leader Dick Armey said yesterday that the Senates delay in officially sending the bill had not slowed House action on such legislation. The Texas Republican said he expects a floor vote sometime this summer on campaign finance regulations, and that a second House committee will examine legislation soon.
"Whether or not there is any technical connection to the Senate work, I dont believe at this point that matters until we take a separate action," Mr. Armey said. "I dont believe there is a technical parliamentary connection there."
Told of another House hearing in the works, Mr. McCain retorted with impatience, "Wonderful. Its good to know that they need to look at the bill. Theyve already voted it out twice."
The bill, sponsored by Mr. McCain and Sen. Russell D. Feingold, Wisconsin Democrat, would ban large, unregulated donations to political parties known as "soft money." The measure also would restrict political advertising by advocacy groups within 60 days of a federal election, and raise the limits for contributions to individual candidates.
Mr. McCain and his supporters have been beseeching House Republican leaders to vote on a bill by Memorial Day, fearful that delays could scuttle his signature issue a third time.
Of the 13 bills approved by the Senate this year, Mr. McCain said, 11 have been officially forwarded to the House after an average of about five days. Mr. Lott has been holding McCain-Feingold in the Senate for 44 days, he said.
"It places a greater possibility on the requirement for a conference [committee]," Mr. McCain told reporters. "Suppose they waited until July to pass the bill. Then they say, 'Gee, the bill never came over from the Senate, so we have to appoint conferees. Even if its the same bill, theyd then have to go to conference. Thats their thinking."
Republican opponents of the legislation have said they hope to either kill the bill or revise it substantially in a House-Senate conference committee. Mr. McCain is trying to avoid a conference and suggested yesterday he would consider blocking other legislation to get his way.


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