- The Washington Times - Friday, March 1, 2002

Senate Republicans and Democrats couldn't break their impasse on election reform yesterday, setting the stage for a showdown vote today as Democrats try to break the Republican filibuster on the bill.

Republican leaders say they have the votes to sustain the filibuster and are willing to halt the bill altogether, after Democrats moved Wednesday to delete anti-fraud provisions that Republicans consider essential.

At issue is an amendment offered by Sen. Charles S. Schumer, New York Democrat, that would let first-time voters verify their vote by signing their name. The bill as written requires first-time voters to present either a photo I.D. or a preprinted form such as a utility bill.

"You can either have the Schumer amendment and no bill, or the bill as originally agreed upon, and no amendment," said Sen. Christopher S. Bond, Missouri Republican, who pushed for the identification requirement as a way to stop fraudulent voting.

Republican leaders said the party is united behind maintaining the more stringent verification process.

Even if senators get past the fraud flap, there are other potential sticking points.

Sen. Conrad Burns, Montana Republican, has filed an amendment to require registrars to clean the voting rolls of anyone who hasn't voted in two consecutive federal elections, or four years. The bill currently gives four elections, or eight years. A similar amendment failed two weeks ago, 40-55, but could gain more Republican support because of the debate over fraud .

Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, said he will try today and, if necessary, on Monday to break the filibuster. If there is no compromise by then, he said he will pull the bill and move on to other issues.

Foremost on that list is campaign-finance reform. That means Senate Republicans have until Monday to try to win small changes to the bill.

The staffs of Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican and a key backer of the bill, and Sen. Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican and the bill's primary foe in the Senate, will hash out a list of changes Mr. McConnell has requested.

Mr. McCain has said he will accept minor changes, passed in another bill, but can't accept major changes or changes to the current bill, since sending it back to the House could mean the bill would die for lack of action.

Among the changes Mr. McConnell wants are an increase in the amount of "soft money" state parties are allowed to collect and annual inflation adjustments on the amount of money political action committees are allowed to raise.

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