- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 17, 2001

Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott said yesterday that the Senates rebuke of him sponsored by Sen. John McCain was "uncalled for," and the feud between the two powerful Republicans shows no sign of abating.
"We could have worked it out without doing this, but John had the bit in his mouth," Mr. Lott told a select group of reporters invited to his office. "I thought it was an uncalled-for action."
Senators were still shaking their heads in disbelief yesterday over Mr. McCains figurative slap to Mr. Lotts face by calling a vote Tuesday to compel him to send the Senate-passed campaign finance bill to the House. The nonbinding measure was approved, 61-36.
"Its the first time in my 20 years in the Senate I can recall something like that happening," said Sen. Don Nickles, Oklahoma Republican and assistant majority leader. "Ill leave it at that."
The Senate approved Mr. McCains campaign finance bill 44 days ago, a measure that would ban large, unregulated "soft money" donations to political parties and restrict advertising by advocacy groups.
But Mr. Lott has yet to send the bill to the House. The delay has little or no short-term impact on the legislation, but it has annoyed Mr. McCain to no end.
"There is no good rationale for this arbitrary action," he told his colleagues on the Senate floor.
A spokesman for Mr. Lott quickly sent word after Tuesdays vote that the majority leader would, in fact, send the bill to the House soon. But yesterday Mr. Lott refused to be pinned down on when he will do that.
"Itll be sent over," he told reporters. "Anything else?"
Asked if there would be repercussions from the rebuke by the Arizona Republican, Mr. Lott replied, "I try to overlook speeches like that. I dont think theyre helpful. Certainly the way John has approached it, and the way it was reported in the media, hasnt helped the relationship and my attitude about it."
He added, "Im not going to respond in kind. I dont have any kind of threats. Hopefully we can move onto substantive issues that really affect peoples lives."
Mr. McCain, who often bucks the party leadership, said he does not believe his relationship with Mr. Lott has hit rock bottom.
"I hope not," Mr. McCain said. "Weve known each other for many years."
But Mr. McCain also left no doubt that he believes Mr. Lott is not treating him fairly.
"Ive made very, very clear my commitment to campaign finance reform, and the importance of getting it done," he said. "I was assured I would be treated fairly in this process."
And as important as the legislation is to Mr. McCain he based his presidential campaign on the issue last year — Mr. Lott remarked at several points in yesterdays interview that he considers the matter inconsequential.
"I really hadnt focused a lot on it," Mr. Lott said. "I assume the House is going to act, and we will send it over there in plenty of time for the House to act the way they see fit. Id rather focus on education and tax relief."
He also said Mr. McCain had overreacted.
"I intend to send that bill over to the House, always have, and I tried to tell him that," Mr. Lott said. "But he was insistent that it be done when he wanted it and not when others might want it. Theres no plan to hold it up indefinitely. Theres no plan to try to block it that way. John got all fired up about it and made something into it when there really wasnt anything to be concerned about."
Mr. McCain said the failure to send the bill to the House in a timely manner increases the likelihood that there will be a conference committee on the legislation. He views a conference committee as the best chance for Republican opponents of the bill to kill it or alter it substantially.


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