The House voted 228-203 to reject the framework for debate, known as the rule, proposed by the Republican leadership. The rule would have allowed for debate and votes on some 20 major amendments and at least two alternative versions of the bill.
Opponents of the rule said GOP leaders were hoping to kill the campaign finance proposal with the series of amendments. Nineteen Republicans and all but one Democrat joined together to defeat the framework and therefore indefinitely delay consideration of the bill.
“This is not a great day,” Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.), one of the bill’s authors, said Thursday. “I know this is coming back. This is not going away.”
Republican leaders said they had no intention of reconsidering the bill any time soon.
“Right now I have no plans to bring this bill up,” Speaker Dennis Hastert said, adding the House would move on to patients’ rights legislation and spending bills.
Although the debate ended on procedural matters, the House had been set to consider two different visions of campaign finance reform.
The bill drafted by Shays and Massachusetts Democrat Martin Meehan was the House version of a bill passed by the Senate in April and would have banned unregulated soft money donations to parties.
The main alternative, drafted by Republican Bob Ney of Ohio and backed by some in the Congressional Black Caucus, would have limited soft money, but not banned it outright.
Ney and Shays reportedly tried to break the procedural logjam in a long and, at times, heated meeting of the Republican members of the House.
In the end members were unable to come to agreement and the rule was voted down.
“It made me sick to my stomach to do what we had to do today,” Rep. Zach Wamp (R-Tenn.), one of the 19 who voted with Democrats to help defeat the rule, told the Associated Press. “There’s a lot of blame to go around on both sides of the aisle.”
Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.), the most vocal advocate for sweeping campaign reform, said today he hoped House members would revisit the issue next week.