Sen. Lott Kills Latest Proposal for Campaign Finance ReformBy Edwin Chen
Los Angeles Times
Citing the very legislative gridlock he helped create, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott killed a broad campaign finance reform proposal Thursday, virtually ensuring that Congress will not act this year to clean up a system awash in corporate and union money.
After the GOP-controlled Senate for the second year in a row shelved legislation designed to address an array of fund-raising excesses in the 1996 presidential campaigns, reformers pleaded with a quiescent public to demand that Congress take action.
But their opponents had no apologies.
"We had a fair discussion. It's obvious we don't have consensus here yet," Lott, R-Miss., said in an interview after tabling the McCain-Feingold bill. "We've got a lot of very important business to do - domestically and in foreign policy."
Lott removed the proposal from the Senate agenda after two procedural votes Thursday morning failed to break the logjam. Without mentioning the controversy, he then called up the next item on the calendar: a popular, multibillion-dollar highway spending bill.
The demise of campaign finance reform came even as backers of a ban on unregulated contributions for the first time this week mustered a majority in the 100-member body. In test votes, 51 senators voted for the bill, with one supporter, Democrat Tom Harkin of Iowa, absent. Their drive failed, however, because they needed at least 60 votes to break a Republican filibuster against reform.
Senate Democrats, all 45 of whom co-sponsored the McCain-Feingold bill, talked of keeping the issue alive by offering the proposal as an amendment to unrelated legislation - as a form of protest, if nothing else. It was that tactic last year that produced the gridlock that forced Lott to agree to revisit the issue this year.
This time, however, the Democrats' threat sounded half-hearted, at best. For one thing, they may want to save such legislative guerrilla tactics for something that is dearer to them, a cause that stands a better chance of enactment: raising the minimum wage.