- The Washington Times - Monday, February 18, 2002

The Senate's leading opponent of campaign-finance reform says he is "confident" he has the votes needed to prevent Senate passage of the bill the House passed last week.
In interviews yesterday on "Fox News Sunday" and CBS's "Face the Nation," Sen. Mitch McConnell said he has secured the 41 votes necessary to allow continuation of a filibuster and prevent a vote on the bill.
"I'm pretty confident that I have 41 senators who will give us a chance to read it, take a look at it, weigh it, assess it," the Kentucky Republican said on Fox. "The bill is amendable and debatable, and, unless at some point 60 senators decide to let it pass, it will not pass."
On a 59-41 vote last year, the Senate passed a similar bill to restrict campaign fund raising and TV issue advertisements.
Asked on Fox whether he expects to be able to put together another 41-vote coalition since Sen. Ernest F. Hollings, South Carolina Democrat, has switched from opposing to supporting it, Mr. McConnell said, "I do."
"Sen. [Ted] Stevens, who supported the bill when it went through the Senate, is now on our side. And there are others," he said, although he did not name anybody besides Mr. Stevens, Alaska Republican.
On CBS "Face the Nation," Mr. McConnell acknowledged uncertainty about his precise game plan against the House-backed proposal, co-sponsored by Reps. Christopher Shays, Connecticut Republican, and Martin T. Meehan, Massachusetts Democrat.
"A filibuster is possible, but toward what end? To kill the bill entirely or to change it or to send it to [House-Senate] conference?" he asked.
"I don't think it's our goal to kill the bill entirely. I think there's going to be a bill … there are parts of it that are very good. The hard-money increases are important, a step in the right direction," Mr. McConnell said.
The Shays-Meehan proposal would allow "hard money" contributions or direct donations to political candidates to increase from $1,000 to $2,000. It would bar national political parties from taking "soft money" contributions and would restrict these donations received by state and local parties.
The bill also limits the ability of nonprofit citizen groups such as the National Rifle Association and the National Abortion and Reproductive RIghts Action League to run ads related to their issues near election time.
Mr. McConnell, easily Congress' most vocal opponent of campaign finance restrictions, said on CBS he's "confident" of getting other parts of the bill "knocked out in court" as violating First Amendment rights of free speech and petition.
"One provision in this bill seeks to make people go to the federal government and register and raise hard dollars in order to mention … [political candidates] within 60 days of an election. That's going to be struck down in court, and you're looking at the plaintiff," he said.
"But other corrections need to be made, and we have the ability to do that in the Senate and will," Mr. McConnell said.
Mr. Shays warned on "Face the Nation" against even amending the bill in the Senate, saying that would de facto kill the proposal.
"It obviously can be amended. I would be arguing against that. I think amendments basically kill the bill. If it's sent to conference, it's dead. If it's sent back to the House, and then people send it to the conference, it's dead," he said.
Asked by correspondent Gloria Borger whether Mr. McConnell "will succeed in … amending your bill to death," Mr. Shays said, "You know, I don't know.
"I just know that Mitch is a very persuasive person. He's also very powerful," Mr. Shays added.
Sen. John McCain, co-sponsor of the Senate version of the campaign-finance bill, told NBC's "Meet the Press" that he expects to get the 60 votes necessary to stop prolonged debate on his bill but was not as certain the bill would pass the Senate as soon as some are predicting.
"I am confident that, over time, we will prevail. I hope the president will sign it. There were mixed signals sent from the White House during the House debate … this system has lurched completely out of control," the Arizona Republican said.
"If we don't get 60 votes, there will be another scandal, as I predicted before Enron, as I predicted before the purchasing of pardons. And we will prevail over time," he added.
On Fox, Mr. McConnell said he does not know where President Bush stands on the Shays-Meehan bill passed by the House.
"The president certainly has been very quiet about this … but that's OK … we're willing to go it alone," he said.
Mr. McConnell said he believes many of his colleagues feel the Shays-Meehan bill needs a full Senate reading and analysis since at least part of it was written by an outside special interest group.
On Friday, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer criticized the fact that Common Cause, a liberal proponent of eliminating soft money, wrote a section of Shays-Meehan that was later deleted.
According to Roll Call, lawyers for Common Cause inserted 11th-hour language into Shays-Meehan, which Republicans painted as a pro-Democrat loophole and that almost sank the bill.


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