Senate Passes Incumbent Protection

“The President ought to compare the Shays-Meehan bill as passed to the six principles he enunciated, and if he does that, I think it will convince him that the bill ought to be vetoed.”
— Rep. John Shadegg, Arizona Republican

(Thursday, March 21, 2002) — Yesterday, the U.S. Senate drove a stake into the Bill of Rights and passed the Incumbent Protection Bill by a vote of 60-40. The bill, which squelches the voice of pro-gun organizations such as Gun Owners of America, now goes to the President who has indicated that he will sign it.

“The reform passed today, while flawed in some areas, still improves the current system overall, and I will sign them into law,” Bush said in a statement after the passage of the bill.

The President is right about one thing. The bill is flawed. It is fatally flawed.

But in the wake of the Enron scandal, politicians are scrambling to appear as though they are getting tough on corruption in politics. The name “Enron” came up several times during the debate in the Senate. Yet the bill does not get tough on real corruption; rather, it cracks down on the First Amendment rights of citizens — specifically, the right they have to criticize their elected officials.

The key vote in the Senate yesterday was not the vote on final passage. The key vote was on whether to “invoke cloture” — that is, on whether to end debate on the filibuster.

As it turns out, there were eight senators who tried to please advocates on both sides of the fence yesterday. These eight senators voted to end the filibuster (that is, they voted IN FAVOR of the bill), but then turned around and voted AGAINST the bill on final passage.

You can be sure that these eight men will try to tell you that they voted against the Incumbent Protection Bill, when in reality, they voted IN FAVOR of the bill at the very time we had the best chance of killing it.

The eight TURNCOAT SENATORS who voted IN FAVOR of the bill by helping to kill the filibuster are:

John Breaux (D-LA)
Bill Frist (R-TN)
Charles Grassley (R-IA)
Chuck Hagel (R-NE)
John Kyl (R-AZ)
Ben Nelson (D-NE)
Gordon Smith (R-OR)
Ted Stevens (R-AK)

[The vote tally for these eight turncoats, plus the other 60 senators who voted wrong yesterday, can be found at on the GOA website. If your Senator voted wrong, you can also send him a sample letter from there expressing your displeasure.]

The Incumbent Protection Bill now goes to President Bush. He says he will sign this bill, even though it contradicts the very principles that he said must be included in a campaign finance reform bill.

According to The Washington Times, the House Republican Study Committee issued a statement last month asserting that the Shays-Meehan bill would violate all of President Bush’s six reform principles which he enunciated one year ago.

The first principle on Mr. Bush’s list says the reform bill must “protect the rights of individuals to participate in democracy.” Among those rights are “the rights of citizen groups to engage in issue advocacy.”

The Times article points out, however, that the Shays-Meehan bill “contains provisions that would prevent advocacy groups from running television and radio campaign ads in the final month of a primary campaign and the final 60 days before a general election.”