Update: Senate passes campaign finance legislation, bill still far from law

By Alex Kingsbury
U-WIRE Washington Bureau
April 3, 2001

John McCain and Russell Feingold’s campaign finance reform bill passed the Senate 59-41 Monday, but the senators are not popping open champagne bottles just yet.

The battle for the measure to be passed by the House of Representatives promises to be more difficult and potentially fatal for the legislation nearly five years in the making.

“I owe a special word of thanks to the many thousands of Americans who lent their voice to our cause this year many who supported my campaign last year, and many who did not,” McCain said Monday. “(They) believe that reforming the way we finance federal election campaigns is a necessary first step to reforming the practices and institutions of our great democracy.”

The bill restricts some forms of political advertisement, bans unrestricted donations of “soft money” from groups to political parties, as well as increasing the amount of “hard money” by individual donors. In 1998 and 1999, similar reform bills passed the House by substantial margins.

The Republican-controlled House is a foreboding prospect for the bill though, as the Republican leadership has been openly hostile to the passage of the bill that restructures the campaign finance laws.

Tom DeLay (R-Texas), the third highest-ranking Republican, has promised to do everything in his power to kill the bill. House speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) said he sees the bill and the ensuing debate as a distraction from the Bush budget.

When the House does hear the campaign finance legislation, it has several options. House Republicans may try burying the bill in Committee or try to bog down and destroy it through amendments. The most probable scenario, given the bill’s support, is that a slightly different version of the legislation will be adopted by the House then sent back to the Senate to a House-Senate conference committee. Though originally designed to resolve differences between the two legislative chambers the committee is frequently a place where controversial legislation dies.

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