Campaign reform may die in Senate for want of a few GOP votes

June 13, 1993|By New York Times News Service

WASHINGTON -- Campaign finance legislation may die in the Senate this week if Democrats cannot find a way to win a few Republican votes by modifying the bill's provisions for public financing of elections.

The issue that seemed the rage last fall when Ross Perot denounced the money in the political system has been stalled in the Senate. And even if legislation to limit spending and curb political action committees survives the Senate, it faces a difficult future in the rest of the legislative process.

Democrats fell seven votes short of the 60 needed to end debate Thursday. They scheduled another vote for Tuesday, hoping that some Republicans had promised their leaders only one vote against letting the bill go forward.

It has now been before the Senate for two weeks. But it has been debated at Senate pace, meaning that only 31 hours have actually been spent debating and voting, with most of the rest of the time spent in recesses and quorum calls.

While Republicans have insisted they are not filibustering the bill, Sen. George J. Mitchell of Maine, the majority leader, has repeatedly failed in efforts to get Republicans to agree on a day for a final vote.

And Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican manager of the bill, said Friday that he would not agree to a vote unless public financing and voluntary spending limits were stricken from the measure.

"The Senate rules provide for a determined minority to stop any legislation they believe is bad for the country," he said. "I certainly would make no apologies for preventing the passage of a new entitlement program for politicians."

The bill provides voluntary spending limits of $2 million to $8.25 million for primary and general elections combined, depending on a state's voting-age population.

If a candidate agreed to abide by the spending limit, he or she could receive 25 percent of the amount in federally financed "communications vouchers," which could be used to buy campaign advertising and pay for postage. The candidate would also be eligible for low-cost mailing and discounted broadcast rates.

Mr. McConnell and most other Republicans oppose public financing and spending limits. But five moderates -- Sens. Dave Durenberger of Minnesota, James M. Jeffords of Vermont, John McCain of Arizona, John H. Chafee of Rhode Island and William S. Cohen of Maine -- have not ruled out supporting a bill with limits.

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