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McCain to introduce campaign finance bill Monday, pushes for early debate

Bush hopes to focus on education instead

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Arizona Sen. John McCain will introduce a bill to reform the campaign finance system Monday, the first day of legislative session of the 107th Congress.

Sen. John McCain  

McCain's move to introduce the bill does not mean he will immediately bring the legislation to the Senate floor. But by simply introducing the bill, he is keeping the spotlight on a major campaign issue in his ill-fated presidential campaign against President-elect George W. Bush.

"We're keeping all our options open," said an aide to McCain, a Republican.

Senate Republican leaders, who want to avoid a high profile fight over the issue the first week of George Bush's presidency, have been trying to work out a deal with McCain to guarantee him time to debate and vote on the bill on the Senate floor, something they've never agreed to in the past.

Senate GOP leaders offered to bring McCain's previous campaign finance bill to the floor last May, but McCain aides said that offer was not soon enough and unacceptable.

Campaign finance reform

McCain aides tell CNN they have offered a counter-proposal for bringing the legislation before the Senate in March, but have not yet heard back from the GOP leadership.

A senior Republican staffer says the leadership is not concerned about McCain introducing the bill.

"The negotiations are about the rules of the road on the Senate floor, and those negotiations are going on in earnest still," said the GOP leadership aide. "We will come to a resolution on this in the not too distant future."

Sen. Russell Feingold  

Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Mississippi, said he is believes he can work something out with McCain to avoid an early fight on the Senate floor.

"We will try to find a way to take it up early this year and deal with it in a broader and more responsible way than we have in the past," said Lott.

The most recent campaign finance bill offered by McCain and Democratic co-sponsor Russell Feingold, D-Wisconsin, included language to ban so-called "soft money" donations -- those unregulated and unlimited donations made to political parties. They are expected to alter the legislation they introduce next week.

Lott, vehemently opposed to the so-called "soft money ban," told reporters Friday he'd like to see a campaign finance reform bill that includes increasing limits on direct campaign contributions, so-called "hard money," placing restrictions on self-financing candidates and election reform

Education first, campaign finance later

Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer said he hopes McCain will come meet with the new president next week about the issue, saying that the incoming president would host the Arizona senator Wednesday. McCain aides said they have not received a formal invitation.

Bush, who will be sworn in as president Saturday, hopes to spend his first week as president pushing his education reform package, Fleischer said.

During a briefing at the Bush transition headquarters, Fleischer said the new president will submit his education package to lawmakers on Capitol Hill Tuesday.

Fleischer said Bush will meet with lawmakers from both parties throughout the week as he promotes his inaugural theme of unity.


Friday, January 19, 2001



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