Cracking down on private gifts to lawmakers, Stevens warned colleagues, would make it more expensive for him to travel the vast interior of Alaska on private jets.
The House on Tuesday gave overwhelming approval of a package aimed at curbing the influence of big-money special interests. Just hours later, Stevens stood up at a closed-door luncheon of fellow Republican senators and Vice President Cheney to register his overwhelming disapproval.
His objection was confirmed by Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho), who added that there could be "a lot of holds on this bill" from senators who object to various provisions.
Republican Senate leaders also raised concerns about the bill but did not say whether they would work to block it. Because the bill changes Senate rules, supporters need 67 votes to move forward with debate.
Senate Minority Whip Trent Lott (R-Miss.) said he will vote against cloture and the bill, but he was less certain about the chances of getting 33 of his peers to join him.
"I don't how many people would have enough courage to stand up and vote against a lobbying and ethics reform bill," he said. "I don't suspect there's going to be strength and dynamic leadership here, but we'll see."
Senate Republicans only discussed the bill for about 15 minutes during their closed-door lunch, Lott said, because Cheney was visiting. He expects more talks Wednesday.
There is political pressure to vote for the ethics reforms despite the fact that many senators don't like them, a Republican senate aide said.
"There have been investigations and questions involving some members, and the natural instinct is to do something -- or anything, even if anything is bad -- simply to look productive," the aide said. "We're looking at the path of least resistance versus good legislation, and typically in these situations, the former rather than latter wins out."
On the House side, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), the House Democrats' campaign chief, said the bill will help Democratic members, especially freshmen who campaigned on a good government platform.
"The passage of this lobbying reform bill will enable each and every one one of them ... to go back home and say, 'We kept our promises. We did what we said we were going to do. We delivered on lobbying reform, and we helped change the way business is done in Washington,'" Van Hollen said.
But the landslide 411-8 vote masked significant divisions among Democrats. Many felt the reforms were merely window dressing, too weak to respond to real problems or lacking the enforcement mechanisms to be effective. But nearly all of those with reservations backed it anyway, fearing the retribution they could face from editorial boards, political foes and constituents if they didn't.
Rep. Gregory W. Meeks (D-N.Y.) said he switched his vote twice before eventually backing the bill. He was concerned that the bundling disclosure provision would unfairly disadvantage members from less affluent districts.
"It really hurts members who are poor. We can't go to our neighbors or friends and ask for $2,300. We have to rely on someone who knows other areas," he said, referring to lobbyist bundlers who would be required to disclose their activities under the bill. "We needed to enforce the rules we had so that if someone violated them, they went to jail. It's not just making rules for political purposes."
Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II (D-Mo.), who voted against the bill, echoed those concerns.
"It was well-meaning, but there wasn't any language in the bill that would have stopped Bob Ney or Jack Abramoff," Cleavr said. "It doesn't address the problems because they can't be addressed with legislation. They can only be addressed with character."
Both Meeks and Cleaver said many more lawmakers would have voted against the measure had it been a secret ballot. "Don't think there were not more than eight people opposed to this," Cleaver said.
In fact, there were at least nine. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) told Cleaver in an elevator after the vote that she meant to vote no but voted yes by mistake.
In addition to Cleaver, Reps. Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii), Joe Barton (R-Texas), Allen Boyd (D-Fla.), William Lacy Clay (D-Mo.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), John P. Murtha (D-Pa.) and John Tanner (D-Tenn.) voted against the bill.
Clay had perhaps the most pointed criticism.
"I thought the vote was a whole lot of hub-hub over nothing," he said. "It was one of the more apparent exercises in futility I've witnessed in my seven years here."
"Here's a prediction," he added. "It will not push our poll ratings up one point."
John Bresnahan and Martin Kady II contributed to this story.