Rove had a hand in Bush's scuttled anti-gay hiring deal with the Salvation Army.

Published July 12, 2001 8:37PM (EDT)

Daily line

"I would bet the president will sign anything we send him ... The president has had a lot more fish to fry in this building."
-- Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio, speaking about Bush's attitude toward campaign finance reform

Bush buzz

Bush could finally be getting a break in Congress after weeks of policy defeats and setbacks. The congressional Republican leadership is doing its level best to drown the campaign finance reform bill sponsored by Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Conn., and Rep. Martin T. Meehan, D-Mass., the House version of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill, which is scheduled for a vote on Thursday. If GOP leaders succeed, Bush would be spared a stark choice between a potentially damaging veto of the legislation, and signing a bill that he's fought from the beginning.

Ironically, this gift to the president could be sealed by very unlikely allies: members of the Congressional Black Caucus worried that the legislation's soft money ban would stymie get-out-the-vote efforts, and by freshman Republicans in the House, several of whom won their races with the help of chief reform booster and Bush nemesis, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

Though the Democratic supporters of the legislation have openly questioned whether they will have enough votes to pass Shays-Meehan, Republican leaders aren't taking any chances, and have set up parliamentary rules designed to thwart compromises that could win the bill more backers. And members who want to be on record as supporting some kind of reform without jeopardizing soft money can always cast a vote for the bill sponsored by Ney and Congressional Black Caucus member Rep. Albert Wynn, D-Md.

Regardless of how the vote turns out, Bush has already benefited from the campaign finance fray's near monopoly on Thursday's political policy headlines. The story may temporarily eclipse new revelations about the White House's aborted deal to allow the Salvation Army and other faith-based charities to discriminate against gays without jeopardizing federal funding.

Since breaking the story on Tuesday, the Washington Post has reported new details contradicting White House assertions that discussions about allowing anti-gay hiring practices were preliminary and never reached top levels of the administration. The latest article quotes sources within the White House who claim that top Bush advisor Karl Rove had all but signed off on the Salvation Army deal, and that the charitable group saw their public advocacy of Bush's faith-based charity plan as a quid pro quo for the gay ban.

With a spiraling P.R. problem like this on his faith-based policy, it's little wonder Bush declared victory on Wednesday when a House committee approved tax breaks for charitable contributions that would cost $6.3 billion, less than a tenth of the $84 billion that the president's original plan called for.

Bush's qualified win on that issue gave him more chances for positive spin than did congressional action on his energy initiatives. On Wednesday, the Senate banned new oil, coal and gas exploration in national monuments, despite White House pleas to expand domestic energy production.

And don't miss the administration's maneuvers to press ahead on missile defense, and neutralize the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty. Also, Bush and Cheney rally troubled congressional Republicans, asking them to move on the GOP's patients' rights bill and Bush's faith-based charity plan.

Thursday schedule: Bush speaks about Medicare in the White House Rose Garden, and later meets with Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflicka.

-- Alicia Montgomery

This day in Bush history

July 12, 1998: A report in the Houston Chronicle details how Gov. George W. Bush and his brother, Jeb -- then a Florida gubernatorial candidate -- were sharing political lessons about the importance of reaching out to minority voters. The Texas governor's success in gaining support among Latino voters inspired his brother to start campaigning more aggressively in black neighborhoods, and travel "to places where Republicans don't go," Jeb Bush said.

Burning Bush

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Bushed! contributors: Eric Boehlert, Karen Croft, Gary Kamiya, Kerry Lauerman, Daryl Lindsey, Alicia Montgomery, Fiona Morgan, Scott Rosenberg, Jake Tapper, Joan Walsh, Anthony York

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By Salon Staff

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