WASHINGTON – Maryland’s senators were on the losing side of a drive Tuesday to change the way federal candidates raise money.
Senate Republicans derailed this year’s most talked-about campaign finance bill, which would ban unlimited contributions to political parties.
Eight Republicans joined Sens. Paul Sarbanes, Barbara Mikulski and the 43 other Senate Democrats in supporting the legislation, seven votes short of the 60 needed to end a Republican delaying tactic.
The bill might have attracted more votes had some Republican moderates succeeded in an attempt to address their party’s concern about labor union contributions without alienating labor- backed Democrats.
But the Republican leadership allowed consideration of only one amendment, a divisive proposal to require unions to get each worker’s consent to use dues for political purposes.
Sarbanes and Mikulski opposed Lott’s amendment, calling it nothing more than an attempt to kill the campaign finance bill.
Lott’s proposal would “shackle a whole group of the American people,” Mikulski said. “It’s a hidden agenda that’s obviously focused on Democrats.”
Lott’s amendment failed to overcome a Democratic delay by eight votes, leaving most Republicans unwilling to vote on the bill as a whole.
Sarbanes said the GOP leadership should have given senators a chance to change the bill so it would be acceptable to more moderates.
“We should have been given the opportunity to amend this bill in the regular order,” Sarbanes said.
Besides limiting party donations, the bill also would regulate advertisements that mention the name of — but do not expressly support — a candidate; toughen requirements for disclosure of contributions; and ban taxpayer-funded mailings from members of Congress during their election years.
The bill’s opponents in the Senate said the legislation would violate the First Amendment’s right to free speech.