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Campaign finance bill gets another boost

Sixty votes are needed to block a filibuster in the Senate.
Sixty votes are needed to block a filibuster in the Senate.  

From Dana Bash
CNN Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A leading foe of campaign finance legislation may be wavering on mounting a Senate filibuster as supporters received reinforcement Tuesday to overcome an attempt to hold up the bill.

U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, said that although he has not decided against waging a filibuster, he plans to meet with Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, a key sponsor of the bill, to discuss options.

"I've said for 10 days now completely stopping the bill was not a likely option, but improving the bill is something we may want to do," McConnell said.

Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, R-Mississippi, told reporters that all sides are talking as they look for a way to have something worked out, perhaps as soon as this week.

"We're not looking for confrontation here, we're looking for results," said Lott, marking a tone from Republican leaders that is starkly different from one taken towards the legislation in years past.

"Campaign finance reform legislation will go to President Bush for his signature this year. Now it's a question of how or when, but we're trying to find the best way to get that accomplished," Lott said.

Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-South Dakota,said he was encouraged by signals from the GOP leadership that they are willing to avoid confrontation. But, Daschle said, supporters are still opposed to changing the House-passed bill.

"If we're going to be supportive of campaign reform this year we have no other option but to pass what passed out of the House, and that's my intention," said Daschle.

McConnell will meet with McCain Wednesday to discuss changes he hopes to make to the bill.

"The game is up. It's over," said McCain. "It's time now for us to resolve it and move on."

The Senate passed campaign finance reform last year with 59 votes, one vote short of the 60 needed to block a filibuster. However, it has become clear in recent days that supporters have the votes for the bill, and they picked up another key vote Tuesday.

U.S. Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska, one of only three Democrats to vote against the bill last year, told Daschle, D-South Dakota, that he will vote against any procedural moves to block or hold up the legislation.

"The senator still does not like the bill and will try to amend it, but he decided he did not want to be a part of the culture of obstruction," said Nelson's spokesman, David DiMartino.

Even without a filibuster, McConnell could still have a chance to kill the bill if he is able to amend it, which would send the legislation to a House-Senate conference.

Campaign finance supporters said they want to bring the House-passed bill directly to the Senate floor to avoid a conference because they believe such a move would end in gridlock.

If the Senate were to pass the same bill the House approved this month, the legislation would go directly to President Bush to sign.

Last week, Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Oregon, became the 60th senator to promise publicly to help break any filibuster and bring the House-passed bill before the Senate.

Campaign finance legislation is unlikely to come before the Senate until mid-March. Daschle has indicated he will delay pushing the bill in earnest until after debate on energy legislation has concluded.




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