WASHINGTON -- The bipartisan Senate coalition behind campaign finance legislation is holding firm into a fourth day of debate, but the toughest tests are yet to come in the struggle over a bill to curb the influence of money in politics.
"This is a poison pill that has nothing to do with union members' rights but everything with defeating campaign finance reform," Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said Wednesday as the Senate killed a proposal for new barriers in the way of political activity by unions and corporations.
The vote was 69-31, and came after critics said that despite an appearance of evenhandedness, the principal effect would be to require organized labor to obtain permission from its members before using their dues for political activity.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, author of the defeated proposal, sought a vote Thursday on a second, related provision. This one merely would require unions to report to their members on political activity, and require that corporations do the same to stockholders.
How they voted
Here's how Minnesota's senators voted on the 69-31 roll call by which the Senate voted to table, or kill, an amendment to a campaign finance bill .
On this vote, a "yes" vote was a vote to kill the amendment and a "no" vote was in favor of it.
Dayton (D) Yes; Wellstone (D) Yes.
Supporters of the campaign finance legislation, led by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Russ Feingold, D-Wis., claimed they possessed the votes to defeat it, as well, and prevail as they have on each test since the legislation reached the Senate floor on Monday.
The bill would ban so-called soft money, the loosely regulated, unlimited donations that unions, corporations and individuals make to political parties. It also would place restrictions on certain types of political advertising broadcast within 60 days of an election or 30 days of a primary -- a provision that even its supporters concede raises constitutional concerns.
Despite their successes thus far, aides to the bill's leading supporters concede tougher tests lie ahead. Still to be navigated is the issue of increased limits on campaign contributions that individuals may give directly to candidates. McCain has said the "only question" is how high to raise the $1,000 limit, in place since 1974, but some supporters of the measure say they will work to keep them in place.
Also on the horizon is an alternative backed by Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb. that would limit soft money donations, but not ban them. At least two Democrats have expressed support for the measure, and Hagel's effort has been encouraged by the White House as well as Republican senators who long have opposed the soft money provision at the heart of the McCain-Feingold measure.
On the Net: Senators' Web sites: http://www.senate.gov/senators/index.cfm
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