Happy late Valentine’s Day to John McCain, Russ Feingold, Chris Shays and Marty Meehan. Sweetheart contributors to political campaigns are probably pretty bitter right now.
The comprehensive Shays-Meehan campaign finance reform bill passed an animated and likely exhausted House of Representatives early Thursday morning, at 2:42 a.m. Washington, D.C. time.
Shays, a soft-spoken, affable Connecticut Republican, was near tears last summer in the Speaker’s Lobby of the Capitol after a parliamentary procedure by Speaker Dennis Hastert killed the legislation. But Shays, who has been known to cry after browbeatings from the House Republican leadership, had reason to celebrate Wednesday night.
A petition signed by 218 members of both parties last week brought the legislation back to the floor and the soft-money debate back to the halls of Washington. Last-minute attempts by House Republicans to amend the bill to death failed, and campaign finance reform finally passed the second chamber of American legislature by a vote of 240-189. The marathon 16-hour debate left 41 Republicans joining all but 12 Democrats in support of the bill.
The legislation will now go to conference with the Senate so the legislature can work out differences between the House bill and the Senate version, last summer’s John McCain-Russ Feingold bill.
This is a huge step in the battle for campaign reform. Shays-Meehan would effectively ban soft-money contributions to political campaigns – money that is ostensibly to be used for party-building tactics but often goes to individual candidates or attack ads. President Bush last year raised the most soft money in the history of American politics.
Hastert called the legislation “Armageddon” last week in a closed meeting with legislators, saying it could spell doom for the Republican Party. The debate has sparked personal attacks and political posturing unseen in quite a while.
The Bush administration has softened its approach from last year, when the White House said it would veto reform legislation. Now, the White House is embracing the policy, and Wednesday, Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer tried to give the president credit for any bill that passes.
“If campaign finance reform is enacted into law, I believe that you can thank President George W. Bush, because he changed the dynamic of how this phony debate has finally ended in Washington, D.C.,” Fleischer said.
That’s utter bovine refuse, but at least the bill finally passed. It remains to be seen how the House-Senate conferees will change the legislation, and if the President will actually sign it – if it goes that far. The bill must first pass the high hurdle of Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who promised to filibuster the bill and require a 60-vote majority to pass without going to conference.
This campaign finance bill still faces an uncertain future, but at least legislators in Washington have begun to recognize the virtues of real reform by passing it in the first place.
Former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani was formally knighted in London Wednesday by Queen Elizabeth, for his service to New York and America after the Sept. 11 attacks. Former fire commissioner Thomas Von Essen and former police commissioner Bernard Kerik also received honors; they were made honorary CBEs, Commanders of the British Empire.
Since Rudy is not a British citizen, Americans cannot technically call him “Sir Giuliani.” As he put it himself Wednesday, “They won’t call me that in Brooklyn.”
Technicalities aside, Giuliani will always be Sir in the eyes of most New Yorkers and citizens of this country.
Becky is a senior majoring in journalism and history.