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Daschle says Senate could take up campaign finance bill this week

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Senate could consider campaign finance changes this week, Majority Leader Tom Daschle says.

``If we can get an agreement to take the bill up quickly, I would like to do that,'' Daschle, D-S.D., said Sunday on ABC's ``This Week.'' ``I'm hopeful that I can get the Republican support necessary to get the bill up and to have a good debate about it.''

Not so fast, said Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., leader of Senate opponents who contend the measure infringes on the right to free speech.

On CNN's ``Late Edition,'' McConnell conceded it is ``not possible now'' to stop the bill. But he also argued that ``there's no particular urgency'' since the measure under consideration wouldn't take effect until Nov. 6, after this year's congressional elections.

McConnell said he would have enough senators to stage a successful stalling tactic ``to ensure we have the time to get it in a little better condition.''

The other side would need at least 60 votes to overcome a filibuster or other such maneuver, and Daschle said supporters of the bill have a good chance of getting there. ``It looks like we may have 60 votes,'' he said.

If a filibuster is avoided, the bill would need a simple majority to pass and be sent to President Bush, who has not committed himself on it. While he joined congressional Republicans opposed to its passage, his senior advisers have indicated that he would sign it.

Two weeks ago the House passed a bill that would ban corporations, unions and individuals from making large, unregulated ``soft money'' donations to political parties.

The measure, sponsored by Reps. Christopher Shays, R-Conn., and Marty Meehan, D-Mass., also would restrict unions, corporations and some independent groups from broadcasting issue ads within 60 days of an election or 30 days of a primary.

The Senate, led by Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Russ Feingold, D-Wis., passed a similar bill last April on a 59-41 vote. Daschle has said the Senate would consider the House measure rather than form a conference committee to work out a compromise with its own legislation.

Shays told CNN that he did not see much need for a conference committee. The House bill, he said, ``is McCain-Feingold with some changes, and the changes are minimal.''

Still, campaign finance may end up taking a back seat to energy legislation this week. ``I made a commitment to take up energy, I'm going to try to finish it,'' Daschle said. ``But then, immediately following, we're going to take up the campaign finance reform bill if we don't get an agreement to take it up sooner.''

``The focus is there, the energy is there, the momentum is there,'' Daschle said. ``I think we're going to get this job done.''

But even then, McConnell said, the debate will not be over. ``I think this is going to become law at some point, regretfully, and we will be going to court'' to challenge its constitutionality, he said. ``I'll be the lead plaintiff.''
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