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McCain to Push Campaign Finance Reform Early in 107th Congress

Aired January 4, 2001 - 1:29 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Some fights ahead in the 107th Congress are expected to go beyond partisan lines, and one example is campaign finance reform.

CNN's Chris Black is on Capitol Hill again today. Chris, it seems like just yesterday everybody was all smiles, just starting out. Now we are already talking about the fights that are ahead. Too bad.

CHRIS BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Natalie.

If George W. Bush expects to get a honeymoon from Congress, well, he better think again. One of the most contentious and partisan issues there is, campaign finance reform, is back. John McCain, the Republican from Arizona and Bush's rival for the Republican presidential nomination, will announce later today, with his leading co-sponsor Russ Feingold, the Democrat for Wisconsin, that they are going to move ahead with campaign finance reform legislation literally days after George Bush takes office as the next president of the United States.

That means that for the first days of the new Bush administration, all attention will be focused on an issue that divides both parties, and particularly divides the Republican Party. Now, Republican leaders have been trying to discourage John McCain from going this route. They did not succeed. McCain says he believes it's important that they act sooner, rather than later for fear that the momentum for reform will fall apart.

Now they have not decided exactly what the legislation will look like. In recent years, the bill has basically been a ban on soft money. That is the unregulated money that goes to the political parties. But there are senators, and McCain is one of them, very concerned about independent expenditures by third parties.

You will recall that during the New York and South Carolina primaries, supporters of George W. Bush, attacked John McCain with television ads. And McCain was quite stung by that. And if anything, it's hardened his resolve to push ahead with this legislation -- Natalie.

ALLEN: And Chris, does anyone know yet if there is enough support in this new Congress to get this measure all the way to the new president's desk? BLACK: Well, remember, Natalie, that campaign finance reform, the companion legislation sponsored Chris Shays and Marty Meehan in the House passed by the House of Representatives. For four years in a row, the last time in 1999, it was blocked in the Senate by a filibuster.

Well, Russ Feingold and John McCain now say they have enough votes to overcome that obstacle. They need 60 votes, and because of the election results, they say they can overcome it, and they can move ahead. So it looks very possible, depending upon what the components of this bill are, something can get through and be sent to the new president.

ALLEN: We will watch it. Chris Black on Capitol Hill. Thanks to you, Chris,

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