Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said on the Senate floor that if there were an effort to hinder action on the bill, "it would probably be led by myself." But if given some time to consult with his colleagues, he said, senators might be able to agree on an orderly way to complete the bill."
"There's no need and no desire to delay this indefinitely," said Senate Republican leader Trent Lott of Mississippi, another opponent of the campaign finance bill championed by Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Russ Feingold, D-Wis.
McCain told reporters he thought the opposition was running out of steam.
"I believe most of the opponents of the bill would like to see it disposed of," he said. "The game is up."
Sen. Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., said he was willing to give opponents a few days to reach a consensus on the best way to proceed with the bill. "This will happen," he said. "This is going to be the year we pass strong campaign reform and put the reins of government back in the hands of all people."
The Senate last April, on a 59-41 vote, approved legislation that would ban the hundreds of millions of dollars in unregulated "soft money" that corporations, unions and individuals give to national political parties. It also prohibits, in the final 30 days of a primary or 60 days before a general election, the use of soft money to finance some "issue ads" that are in reality aimed at either endorsing or attacking a candidate.
The House, led by Reps. Christopher Shays, R-Conn., and Martin Meehan, D-Mass., earlier this month passed very similar legislation by a 240-189 vote. Supporters are seeking quick Senate passage of the House bill so it can go directly to President Bush, who is expected to sign it.
McConnell and others have left open the possibility of either initiating a filibuster or introducing amendments that would force the bill into a House-Senate conference, where it could be stalled indefinitely.
"It sounds like we may be moving toward a resolution of the campaign finance issue without a filibuster on the floor of the Senate," Feingold said. He added that his side is confident of the 60 votes needed to end a filibuster and bring the measure to a final vote.
The Senate is wrapping up work on an election reform bill and is scheduled to go next to a major energy bill. But Daschle has said he hopes an agreement can be reached on setting aside several hours one day to debate and vote on the campaign finance legislation.