CAMPAIGN FINANCING EARLY ISSUE FOR BUSH

Byline: Joanna Ramey

WASHINGTON — As the curtain rises on the Bush administration today it will be former GOP presidential candidate Sen. John McCain who tries to set the tone in U.S. politics by introducing a bill for campaign finance reform.
The Arizona Republican said Sunday he will tie up Senate business starting this spring if his colleagues on Capitol Hill and President Bush do not accede to his long-repeated call to overhaul the country’s campaign finance laws. Such a maneuver could delay or threaten Bush’s agenda, including an income tax cut and a measure that would enable the new administration to complete negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement of the Americas.
Although he did not allude to many specific policy issues during his inaugural address, matters of interest to the fashion industry on President Bush’s agenda also include:
Negotiating a new round of trade barrier reductions in the World Trade Organization. Still unknown is how the Bush administration plans to negotiate tariff reductions for textile and apparel imports in a new round that is likely to start while he is in office.
Repealing workplace regulations designed to protect employees from repetitive stress injuries, approved by the Clinton administration in its last weeks. Bush considers the rules to be unnecessary and costly.
Signing a bankruptcy reform measure, which is a particular priority of retailers. Clinton vetoed bankruptcy legislation last year saying it was anticonsumer.
Passing Internet privacy legislation, the specifics of which Bush has been mum on. Bush has also signaled possible support for an Internet-wide sales tax, a move advocated by brick-and-mortar stores.
“We are gripped by the special interests,” declared McCain — whose determination to further limit campaign contributions appears to have reached a new height — during a guest appearance Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” And although McCain termed his threat to halt Senate business a “last resort” and acknowledged Bush has seemed open to some kind of reform measure, the move to introduce a campaign finance bill is regarded by observers as one of many signals the traditional honeymoon period will be short-lived for the nation’s 43rd President.
Putting more teeth into McCain’s threat is the country’s divisive political climate that ushered Bush into the White House during his inauguration Saturday. The mood of the nation was underscored by throngs of demonstrators protesting the manner in which the former Texas governor was determined the winner of the election, following the controversial fight over Florida’s electoral votes.
Bush needs support from GOP senators like McCain to further the administration’s agenda in the chamber, which is equally divided between Republicans and Democrats. In the House, power is almost equally split among a Republican majority; however, there are more Democrats there who are considered likely to bow to Bush’s wishes, than Republicans expected to oppose them.
Highlighting the uproar sparked by the manner in which the election’s outcome was determined, there was unprecedented inaugural security to separate thousands of protesters from the day’s festivities. Along the Pennsylvania Avenue parade route, protesters of varying ages pressed against each other in designated protest areas. A phalanx of police standing three-deep and shoulder-to-shoulder stood between the crowd and the route where the new President’s motorcade would pass. A helicopter hovered overhead as well.
“I’m angry at the injustice of the election,” said Carolyn King, 54, a saleswoman from Grand Rapids, Minn., who was wearing a blindfold to depict what she called the U.S. Supreme Court’s exercise of “blind justice” in the decision that led to Bush’s razor-thin victory. King said she never before has protested or been politically involved, but added: “I was mad enough to come here and voice my displeasure.”
Other protesters chanted “Cheat, Cheat, Cheat” and waved placards questioning Bush’s free-trade stance and his desire to drill for oil in the Alaskan wilderness, as well as the legitimacy of his victory. “Hey Dubya, Nice Coup,” read one sign, while another asked: “Hey George, Who Died and Made You King?” A black sign carried by one man, wearing a green poncho to protect against the bitter sleet and rain, protested that “Even the Sky is Weeping.”
Bush’s motorcade picked up speed as it passed the emotion-filled crowd, giving the appearance he was being chased to the White House. Once he reached his new home — and friendlier spectators — he and First Lady Laura Bush got out of their car and waved to the joyous onlookers.
Earlier in the day, in his acceptance speech, Bush called for unity, saying “things will get done” and that “we’re going to rise above expectations, that both Republicans and Democrats will come together to do what’s right for America.” At the top of the Bush agenda is education reform, a plan his staff said the President will unveil to Congress early this week.
Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D., Conn.), who shared the losing Democratic presidential ticket with Al Gore, forecast Sunday that Bush will meet with success if he steers clear of conservative proposals. In urging for a centrist agenda, in an appearance on ABC’s “This Week,” Lieberman said Saturday’s inaugural demonstrations show there is “quite sincere anxiety in this country about what this presidency will be like.”

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