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Foes Claim Votes to Kill Targeting of Labor by Lott

By Helen Dewar
Tuesday, October 7, 1997; Page A05 Washington Post Staff Writer

Senate Democrats said last night they were told by Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) that he will not allow a test vote today on his proposal to target labor unions as part of campaign finance legislation and claimed he was doing so because he lacks the votes to win.

But Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Russell Feingold (D-Wis.) still face a huge hurdle in trying to win the 60 votes necessary to head off a Republican filibuster against their campaign finance bill.

Lott is pushing for an amendment that would require unions to get prior permission of members before spending dues money on politics. The amendment is strongly opposed by organized labor and its Democratic allies. Earlier in the day, President Clinton urged its defeat, calling it a "partisan poison pill" aimed at scuttling the whole bill.

At one point, McCain said he believed Lott would allow a vote on "tabling" – or killing – his amendment before proceeding to other votes on the bill.

But Lott told Minority Leader Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.) last night that he would not allow such a vote, according to a Democratic leadership aide who said this amounted to a "profound signal that he [Lott] doesn't have the votes for his own amendment."

Neither Lott nor his spokesman was available for comment.

It would have taken only 50 votes, with Vice President Gore breaking a tie, to table and thus kill Lott's proposal. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) announced yesterday she planned to vote against Lott and several other moderate Republicans were negotiating with Lott in hopes of working out a compromise. Democrats claimed at least 49 votes against Lott's proposal.

The Senate is still scheduled to vote today on ending debate on both Lott's union amendment and the bill itself. To end debate on either would require 60 votes. Neither side could claim enough votes, raising the prospect of stalemate.

Earlier in the day, Common Cause and other outside groups working for passage of the McCain-Feingold bill presented what they described as 1 million signatures on petitions urging passage of new campaign finance legislation. The petitions were presented at a news conference McCain and Feingold held to boost prospects for their bill.

© Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company

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