WASHINGTON — The Senate voted today to allow IRS, CIA and FBI agents to participate in political campaigns, rejecting Republican attempts to maintain the status quo established in the 51-year-old Hatch Act.
On a 51-46 vote, the Senate rejected an amendment to exclude employees in the spy and tax agencies plus the Justice Department and the Federal Election Commission from a Democratic bill that removes most restrictions on political activities by civil service and postal workers.
The amendment by Senate GOP leader Bob Dole of Kansas was one of three unsuccessful attempts by Republicans today to chip away at the union-sought revisions in the Hatch Act.
"Laws restricting those people and what they can do are already on the books," said Sen. John Glenn (D-Ohio), the principal author of the proposed Hatch Act revisions. "They cannot use information gained on the job politically."
Dole contended that the entire bill amounts to a "pot of gold" for the Democratic Party because unionized public employees and their political action committees overwhelmingly favor Democrats.
Also defeated today were GOP amendments to maintain a ban on federal workers holding office in the two political parties and delaying any changes in the Hatch law until after a campaign finance reform bill is enacted.
The first amendment by Sen. William V. Roth (R-N.H.) was defeated on a 64-32 vote and the second by GOP Whip Alan K. Simpson of Wyoming was rejected 61 to 36.
Dole hinted on Monday that Republicans might try to attach major elements of their proposed campaign finance reform bill--such as a total abolition of PACs--to the Hatch Act revisions later this week. The Senate has already been debating the bill for a week.
"If we banned all PACs, there wouldn't be much demand for this bill," Dole said.