WASHINGTON — Nearly a month after the House passed a landmark bill tightening campaign financing rules, the Senate's Democratic leader moved Wednesday to bring final action on it by next week.
"Time has run out," said Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) as he scheduled a preliminary vote for Friday. More votes would follow next week in an effort to resolve the issue before Congress leaves for a two-week spring break.
Daschle, a major proponent of the bill, said the chamber would conduct unusual round-the-clock sessions, if necessary.
Based on the latest head counts, though, it seems doubtful that Republican opponents have the will or the votes to maintain an all-out filibuster to kill the bill.
The bill at issue would ban the unlimited donations to national political parties known as soft money and take other steps to significantly overhaul campaign finance law for the first time in nearly 30 years. Its main aim is to diminish the influence of large donors on the political process.
Opponents say that portions of the bill are unconstitutional and that its main effect will be to lessen the importance of the parties while allowing special interest groups to exert more influence on campaigns.
Proponents are confident the bill will be sent to President Bush because the Senate last April approved a similar bill on a 59-41 vote. While it takes 60 votes to force final action on disputed legislation in the Senate, a few senators who opposed the bill last year have indicated they would now vote to break a filibuster.
Opponents appear to recognize that reality.
"I don't think a filibuster is called for at this time," said Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.), who opposes the bill. But in the Senate, where rules grant senators great power to debate and propose amendments to legislation, no action is certain until the final vote.