Senate Democrats

Reid Floor Remarks on Campaign Finance and Congressional Pay Raises

Washington, D.C. – Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid delivered the following statement on the floor of the United States Senate today.

Remarks as prepared:

“Mr. President, I rise this morning to talk about a provision of this bill that was removed by Republican leaders when we took up the bill yesterday. I want commend my colleagues Senator Feingold and Senator McCain for their leadership in convincing Republican leaders to take this step. The provision should not pass quietly in the night. Nor, more important, should it emerge in the month ahead in a must-pass conference report. The leadership PAC rider created a giant loophole in our campaign finance laws and permitted unseemly money transfers among incumbents and national parties.

“Today, leadership PACs are bound by the same campaign finance rules as are regular campaign PACs. That is, leadership PACs can’t give more than $15,000 annually to the national parties. The rider inserted in this bill during markup by the Republican leadership removed this limit on leadership PACs so they could transfer unlimited funds to national parties. My colleagues Senators Feingold and McCain rightly decried this move as a major circumvention of our campaign finance laws.

“The provision would have directly undermined the point of those laws: preventing corruption in fact and in appearance. I joined with them to oppose this provision and assured them the Democrats – all Democrats – would stand with them on a motion to strike this rider.

“Through the efforts of Senators Feingold and McCain, we had the votes to strip this provision from the bill. Recognizing that, Republican leaders yesterday agreed to remove it from the bill. I have made it clear to my colleague, Majority Leader Frist, that we will not accept a conference report with reemergence of this provision.

“I also want to say another word today, Mr. President, about my friend, Russ Feingold. Russ Feingold is a person who’s very talented. He is a unique advocate for many, many issues that affect this country. I’ve just talked about campaign finance reform. He is and has been a leader on campaign finance reform. There are times that I disagree with Russ Feingold, but that is not often. He’s a person who brings unique attributes to the United States Senate. Academically he’s without peer, graduated from Harvard Law School, a Rhodes Scholar.

“Today he will speak on behalf of this side of the aisle on a provision dealing with compensation for members of Congress. There are times that a COLA is certainly in keeping with the needs of this body and the country, but there are times when they’re not. And as I’ve indicated, Russ Feingold has never shied away from offering contentious amendments, difficult amendments, and today I’m happy to see that the other side of the aisle recognized that this amendment would pass, the Feingold amendment that’s been offered by him alone in years past. The majority decided that they would step in the shoes of Senator Feingold because they knew this was the time with Katrina, with the many other problems facing this country that a pay raise was not appropriate.

“I want the record to be spread with the fact that Russ Feingold is a person that I so appreciate his good work. I admire him and the work that he does and want everyone within the sound of my voice to understand that this amendment that we will dispose of prior to 12:30 today. It has always been the Feingold amendment year after year after year, and now I’m happy to see that others have joined with him. While I’ve disagreed with him on this issue in the past, no one can take away the fact that this has always been Russ Feingold’s mantra that he would offer the amendment to make sure that the congressional pay raise did not go forward. He certainly was not successful in years past, but everyone recognized that he would be successful this year. Therefore, the majority, in an effort to take away a little recognition from him, decided that they would do this. The recognition will always be there because Russ Feingold has always been out front on this issue.”