Republicans, who said they were fighting for their party's survival, failed yesterday in an attempt to delay markup of a bill which would sharply reduce how much a political party can give a congressional candidate.
Republican national party committees have raised about $18.5 million as opposed to the Democrats $5.6 million in 1977, and Republican Party Chairman Bill Brock said the democratic proposal, now before the House Administration Committee, is "a serious attempt to dismantle the two-party system in America" and "a calculated power grab."
Rep. Charles Wiggins (R-Calif.) attempted to get the House Administration Committee to hold hearings on the proposal which he said was "brand new," but he was defeated 16-to-8 on a party-line vote.
"Now it's a case of survival for us," said Rep. Bill Frenzel (R-Minn).
After the morning session, Frenzel said, "We're in the process of getting rolled. There's nothing we can do." But he said he was certain Senate Republicans would filibuster any conference report with such provisions.
"This is the most bald-faced attack on the minority by the majority I've ever seen. They're hogs. They're not content to have a two-thirds majority. They want it all. This is a throwback to the old Wayne Hays Days," a reference to former House Administration Committee Chairman Wayne Hays who resigned amidst a sex and payroll scandal.
The proposal introduced by House Administration Committee Chairman Frank Thompson (D-N.J.) Would reduce from $30,000 to $10,000 the total amount a national party committee, congressional campaign committee and state party could give to a congressional candidate.
What those three committees combined could spend on behalf of a candidate for advertisements, etc. would be reduced from $20,000 to $5,000.
Individual political action committees contribution to a candidate would be reduced froa limit of $5,000 per candidate to $2,500 per candidate.
Thompson said his proposal was a means of reducing the influence of special-interest money on congressional elections. Both the number of corporate and other political action committees and the amounts contributed to congressional races have grown considerably in the last few years.
House Speaker Thomas P. (Tip) O'Neil Jr. (D-Mass.) endorsed the proposal, saying, "In a partisan way, I am very, very definitely in favor of it." He noted the Democrats' Party committees have only a third of the Republicans' spending power and that Republicans have won four of the six recent special elections to House seats. "They've been auctions," he said.
However, some Democrats, proponents of a move to amend the bill on the House floor to provide for partial public financing of House races, were dismayed at the party limit effort.
"If the bill stays in its present form it will be a very tough vehicle for public financing because it looks like a very partisan move. It will make it hard to get Republican support for public financing, Rep. Abner Mikva (D-III.) said.
Mikva said he and other Democrats were considering a package which would restore party spending ability along with providing for public financing.