- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 27, 2002

Senate Democrats agreed yesterday to postpone immediate action on campaign finance reform but are still insisting that when the bill is brought up it be considered as is and that has Republican leaders balking.
"This will be a no-amendment strategy. We are not anticipating supporting any amendments at all," said Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat. "The only option we have is to get this bill to the president and to get it in the form that it was passed in the House."
Republican leaders have given up hope of defeating the bill.
"Campaign finance reform legislation is going to go to President Bush for his signature this year. Now it's a question of exactly how or when, and we're trying to find the best way to get that accomplished," said Majority Leader Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican, who said he expects the core of the bill currently before the Senate to be what reaches the president's desk.
Still, he and Sen. Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican and a chief opponent of the bill, said they will use the time extension to examine their options. They insist there are some things in the bill that should be changed.
"We have identified some areas where there's concern," Mr. Lott said. "Senator McConnell and Senator [John] McCain and Senator [Russell D.] Feingold, and I presume Senator Daschle and others, are working on that. If we can find a way to deal with that and get a positive result, that would be our preference. After that, then we'll just have to look at the other options."
In between the Republican and Democratic leaders is Mr. McCain, Arizona Republican and chief sponsor of campaign finance along with Mr. Feingold, Wisconsin Democrat. Mr. McCain said he would like to allow amendments but is confident of defeating them and maintaining the House bill.
Mr. McCain and Mr. McConnell are planning to meet today to discuss the bill.
The Senate passed the McCain-Feingold bill, 59-41, last year, but the House has taken no action on it. Instead, the House passed its own version, 240-189, earlier this month.
That bill, sponsored by Rep. Christopher Shays, Connecticut Republican, and Rep. Martin T. Meehan, Massachusetts Democrat, bans national political parties from raising or spending the unregulated campaign donations known as "soft money."
Republicans need to convince senators that the House version is substantially different from the bill the Senate passed.
Yesterday, neither Mr. McConnell or Mr. Lott would talk about specific differences in the bills, though other senators pointed to provisions that allow politicians to raise money for charitable organizations that could be spent on campaigns.
But the bill's backers said the measure hasn't changed too much.
"The differences between the bills are very slight it's not enough to justify a conference committee," Mr. Feingold said.
Another noticable difference is that the House bill lacks a provision that would guarantee federal political candidates the lowest rate for broadcast advertisements. A large majority of Senators supported the provision, but an equally strong majority in the House struck the language from their bill.
Democrats hope simply to adopt the House bill because passing amendments would either send the bill to a conference committee between the two chambers, where the bill could die, or require the House to bring the bill up again.
"I think it would be almost impossible to repeat that with the remaining time we have left in this session," Mr. Daschle said.

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