The House Administration Committee passed by a 16 to 9 party line vote yesterday a controversial bill that would reduce by 70 per cent the amount a political party's fund-raising committee could contribute to a House candidate.
The bill has infuriated Republicans, who have raised three times as much through party committees as Democrats.
Majority leader Jim Wright (D-Tex.), in a breakfast meeting with reporters yesterday, admitted that "maybe it wasn't a smart strategy" to cut the party funding role drastically.
"Id have to say we ought not to alter the rules to affect the outcome," Wright said. "But I do believe apart from partisanship...we shouldn't put seats on the auction block."
House Speaker Thomas P. (Tip) O'Neill Jr. said the cuts "helped us get the bill out of the committee," implying that some commitee Democrats would not have voted for it otherwise.
Republicans have complained that the Democrats are "changing the rules in the middle of the ball game." But O'Neill said, "There's never a middle of the ball game. We're always playing." He criticized Republicans for refusing to go along with partial public financing of House races, which is expected to be offered as an amendment when the bill reaches the floor, possibly as early as next week.
Republicans have promised that if the bill passes the House, they will filibuster it in the Senate.
The bill would cut from $50,000 to $15,000 the amount that national and state party committees could give and spend on behalf of House candidates. It would cut by 50 per cent what individuals and political action committees of corporations, labor unions and other groups could give partly committees of corporations, labor unions and other groups could give party committees. And it would cut by 50 per cent, from $5,000 to $2,500, the amount political action committees could give directly to House candidates.