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Press Conference On House Passage Of Campaign Finance Reform

Aired February 14, 2002 - 11:15   ET


LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: I think now we want to go live to Washington for breaking news right now. We're listening now to something of a victory speech being given by members who have worked for campaign finance reform so much, so diligently for the past year or so.

That bill being passed in the House now. This is Christopher Shays. So let's listen in.


REP. CHRISTOPHER SHAYS (R), CONNECTICUT: ...courage for the freshman that voted in this legislation last night. Others as well. And I want to thank the 22 Republicans who signed it, obviously the 190 -- what is it -- 196 Democrats. And I want to say to you that I felt from day one that I could deal in good faith with the other side of the aisle, there were so many opportunities that Mr. Gephardt could have played this politically. In fact, I don't even know if he spoke on floor yesterday, did you?

You know, he just let the job get done. He didn't make it a partisan issue. He enabled us to debate this issue as he so often. I have tremendous respect for how he has handled this issue. And just before introducing you, Marty and I know that we are not the alpha, and we are not the omega. We are what comes in between. McCain- Feingold, then there was Shays-Meehan and then there is now McCain- Feingold. And if you think I'm disappointed to call it McCain- Feingold, I don't want to see that bill ever again.




SHAYS: I can't. Not yet.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just want to say, today you are the American people's valentine.

SHAYS: Oh, wow!


SHAYS: Don't I get a kiss?


REP. MARTIN MEEHAN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: You know I have to say what's really...


MEEHAN: ...we've been very busy and I'm going to be a -- we have been very busy and I'm going be on the shuttle back to Boston for Valentine's Day.

SHAYS: How do you carry that on the plane?

MEEHAN: Can we keep this off the record? When my wife sees what I bought for her, she's going to say how did you ever think of me?


SHAYS: You know, how do you take seriously someone who's going to introduce the Minority Leader Mr. Gephardt with a valentine like this? Mr. Leader.



REP. RICHARD GEPHARDT (D-MO), MINORITY LEADER: Wow, how do you follow that?


GEPHARDT: Let me first thank Chris Shays and Marty Meehan. They have been on this quest for years. And they've been a great team. And they've worked well together, and they've respected one another every day. And I want to thank them personally, and I want to thank the Republicans who stood with us. Chris Shays who stood with us, against inordinate pressure, perhaps on his package it should say, "bends but does not break." Does not break. They didn't break in all of that pressure yesterday. I want to thank Nancy Pellosi and our whip team.


GEPHARDT: What a debut.


GEPHARDT: This woman is not to be trifled with. She wins. And she gets the job done, and her team of fractious Democrats were a very diverse party, and we have many diverse thoughts. And you don't want to walk into a Democratic Caucus and tell people how to vote. You talk with them, over a long period of time.

(LEFT IN PROGRESS) HARRIS: Well, there's been a lot of talk going on for a long time in Washington about campaign finance reform. And now it appears to be on the brink of becoming a reality. There we were listening to various leaders from the House, and some members as well from the Senate there, who were talking about the passage of the bill in the House yesterday, which is now going on to the Senate. We heard -- you didn't hear Tom Daschle, who was on just moments before Christopher Shays came out.

And he said, basically, threw down the gauntlet and said, "send that bill over to the Senate now!" And he said he's already talked to John McCain, Senator John McCain, and they're in the process now of trying to make sure that the minute it arrives in the Senate it will go right to the floor for debate.

Let's check with our Kate Snow, who's on Capitol Hill. She's been listening to all this. Kate?

KATE SNOW, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Leon, a couple of points. You heard them talking about the interesting coalition that formed in support of campaign finance reform. It was hinted at by Dick Gephardt there at the very end, talking about Christopher Shays, a Republican, who worked with them. You just mentioned Senator John McCain, a Republican. I'm told by the way that Senator McCain, he never went on the floor, last night, of the House, because not his place. He's in the Senate.

But he had a little office that he was using, just off the floor, where he was meeting secretly with some of those that they needed to convince in the wee hours of the morning. This whole bill getting done about 2:30 this morning. A lot of these members working on very little sleep right now.

Mr. Meehan told me earlier today, Leon, that he had -- he was working off of one and a half hours of sleep. You mentioned Senator Daschle. It does go over to Senate now. There was some question about whether opponents would try to filibuster. They have pledged to try to filibuster or stop the measure in the Senate. A little bit of news to report to you.

CNN has learned that Senator Fritz Hollings, a Democrat who voted against campaign finance reform last summer, now says he will help his Democrats block a filibuster. It's important because he's saying. "I'll be there, procedurally, to help you get this at least on the floor of the Senate so that it can't be blocked by a filibuster. Leon, that would bode well for them being able to get the bill through the Senate and then over to the president. Leon.

HARRIS: Well, Kate, I know -- I'm going to get in trouble for squeezing so much more time out of you, but I have you ask this. Whither now Dennis Hastert? Speaker Hastert came out and was very forceful and has been...

SNOW: Yes.

HARRIS: ...speaking very publicly the last few weeks now about what this means. And in fact you said...

SNOW: Right.

HARRIS: ..he basically was going to do whatever it took to keep this from happening. And he has stepped out and has spoken out and put himself in a very vulnerable position, and, now, he seems to have lost on this one.

SNOW: Well, yeah. I mean, I think you could probably judge that it's over for the House at this point. It goes back over to the Senate now. And it's really going to be up to the Senate opponents, Senator Mitch McConnell, one of the key people, who thinks that this bill is flawed. He thinks that it violates people's freedom of speech. He thinks that it takes power away from the political parties. So I think you'll see a shift over to the Senate side now. I talked to Speaker Hastert about it yesterday morning. I asked him if he thought maybe he shouldn't have made those comments about it being Armageddon for the Republican party. You remember he said that.

HARRIS: That's right.

SNOW: He said -- he said he firmly believes that this is a really bad bill. That he thinks it's going to take too much power away from both sides. And he still believes that. But, again, they tried last night to defeat it, and it just simply didn't work out for the Republicans. They put up 10 different amendments, Leon, and none of them passed. So, now it moves back to the Senate.

HARRIS: There you go. This is really getting interesting. Kate Snow on Capitol Hill. Thank you very much. All right, we'll let you get back to it. We'll check back in with you later on.




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