Angry House Republicans threatened to revolt yesterday if House Minority Leader John Rhodes (Ariz.) continued to negotiate with Democratic House leaders over a controversial campaign financing bill.
Rhodes began negotiations Tuesday night with Frank Thompson (D-N.J.), chairman of the House Administration Committee, over a bill that would cut by 70 percent, from $50,000 to $15,000, the amount a party fund-raising committee could give House candidate.
But when Rhodes called a meeting yesterday morning to inform Republicans of the offer the Democrats had made - that limit into effect until 1979 - he found few of his colleagues happy about the compromise and some angry with the idea that he would negotiate at all.
Rep. Robert Bauman (R-Md.) said he had, by mid-afternoon yesterday, close to the 5 signatures necessary on a petition to call a party conference to instruct Rhodes to do nothing but oppose the bill.
"This bill is aimed at our jugular. You don't let them slash your wrists as an alternative," Bauman said. He said he believes there are enough votes to defeat the rule, the motion necessary to bring the bill to the floor.
"We're in the best position we've been in a long time," said Rep. Robert Badham (R-Calif.) "The public and the media are on our side in this one. We don't have to give anything away."
Another Republican House member said, "Rhodes wasn't empowered by us to make any deals. We don't have to give them anything. If he persists, he'll find himself all alone in this."
Rep. Bill Frenzel (R-Minn.) said some Republicans did want to compromise, but some wanted to trade a full restoration of what parties and political action committees could give in return for allowing a vote on public financing of congressional races, and some wanted to maintain a hard line of simply opposing the bill all the way.
Frenzel admitted Rhodes probably could not carry all the Republicans with him, but he said "20 or so might be enough."
However by late in the day, further negotiations had been called off.
An aide to Rhodes denied that Rhodes was pressured into calling off the negotiations. He said Democrats had changed overnight what they had proposed to give the Republicans and that was the reason for canceling the meeting.
Democratic sources said Rhodes had called Thompson and demanded further concessions, and then said he had to "talk to his troops some more" before continuing the meetings.
Republicans have raised three times as much money through their party committees for the 1978 elections. They have contended the emocratic bill is nothing but a bald-faced attempt to change the rules in the middle of the game and cripple their ability to spend the money they raise.