The White House officially backed the Leach anti-Internet gambling bill in a letter Monday to Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D., the Senate majority leader.
The letter was written by Lawrence B. Lindsey, who the economic policy assistant to President George W. Bush.
"The bill protects families and gives terrorists one less place to hide their illicit funds."
-Rep. Michael Oxley
The Senate has recessed for the Nov. 5 elections and will reconvene Nov. 22 for a lame-duck session in which even the legislators who were voted out of office will return along with those who kept their seats or were not up for election for a final few days of business. During those few days would be the last chance during the current Congress for HR 556, the Leach-LaFalce Internet Gambling Enforcement Act.
The bill, which passed the House of Representatives Oct. 1, was put forth by Rep. James Leach, R-Iowa, and Rep. John LaFalce, D-N.Y.
In the letter, Lindsey urges Daschle to schedule a vote on the bill before the legislative year ends.
"I write to express the Administration's opposition to illegal Internet gambling," the letter states. "With over 1,800 site currently in operation--virtually all located offshore--and projected
revenues for 2003 heading upwards of $4 billion, the illegal Internet gambling industry must be stopped."
Lindsey goes on to say the Administration believes Internet gambling poses a criminal and security risk to Americans.
"Congress has heard countless heartbreaking stories of families torn apart, careers ruined and credit ratings destroyed by illegal Internet gambling. The lure has proven to be irresistible to the most vulnerable in our society--our youth and problem gamblers," he writes. "At the same time, Internet gambling serves as a haven for money laundering by organized crime and, potentially, for international terrorism according to the Department of Justice and the FBI, and a recent interim report by the
General Accounting Office."
A press officer for Daschle indicated to IGN that it would be unlikely that the legislation, no matter how many friends it has in high places, will be voted on before the session runs out.
"Sen. Daschle does not personally object to bringing that legislation up, however, there are numerous senators who have raised objections, and it is often difficult to bring legislation--potentially
controversial legislation--to the floor when you have a very short time frame, which may be the case in the lame duck," she said.
Daschle's office said it did not have a list of senators who oppose the bill and it does not know now long the lame duck session will last.
Bill Tate, Leach's press secretary, said the likelihood that the bill will be voted on before the session ends depends on how the Nov. 5 elections go. If Jim Talent, a Republican, wins Democrat Sen. Jean Carnahan's seat in Missouri, he will immediately be given his seat. The Talent-Carnahan race is a special election because Carnahan took her seat in place of her husband, Mel Carnahan, who died just before the last Senate election and was voted into office posthumously.
"If (the lame-duck congress) is significantly different from the present Congress, I would guess they would do very little," Tate said.
The chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, Rep. Michael G. Oxley, R-Ohio, said in a press release that he wants the bill to pass the Senate before the session ends.
"There's no excuse for a handful of senators to be holding up Internet gambling legislation to appease pro-gambling forces in their states," he said. "The bill protects families and gives terrorists one less place to hide their illicit funds. This legislation is just as essential to American families as homeland security and terrorism insurance."
Click here to view the Lindsey letter.