Any hope of campaign finance reform legislation getting through the House this year depends on plans by Democrats and some Republicans to outmaneuver the GOP leadership and force a vote on the bill they say has the best chance of passage.
Operating under rules that limited debate, prohibited amendments and required a two-thirds majority for passage, the House voted 337-74 late Monday to reject a Republican-drafted campaign finance bill - elements of which offended members of both parties.Democrats, who denounced the process as a "sham" and a "cynical maneuver," promised to begin pressuring colleagues to support a parliamentary procedure that would, if successful, allow them to bypass the traditional committee process and automatically schedule their bills for votes.
"It's the only way left to reverse this fraud that's perpetuated on us here tonight," said Rep. Scotty Baesler, D-Ky. "Campaign finance will not die today. The game is not over."
The effort requires 218 signatures, a majority of the House. So far, just 188 members - 182 Democrats and six Republicans - have signed what is known as a "discharge petition."
"Only 30 more signatures are needed to bring campaign finance reform to the floor under fair rules," said Ann McBride, president of public interest group Common Cause, which was launching a nationwide campaign to secure the remaining signatures.
"We're going to get that vote before this Congress ends," added House Democratic leader Richard Gephardt of Missouri.
Even some Republicans criticized the process that brought four campaign finance bills to the floor under procedures typically reserved for the least controversial measures.
The harshest critics said GOP leaders rigged the process to allow a vote on reform - as Speaker Newt Gingrich had promised - while killing the legislation at the same time.
"When we act with such transparent tactics, can we blame the public for giving up hope?" asked Rep. Asa Hutchinson, R-Ark. "Do we really believe that we can go home and tell our constituents that we had an honest debate and vote on reform? I don't think so."