Senate Democrats failed to get enough votes to proceed on their legislation to counter the 2010 Citizens United campaign finance ruling.
The DISCLOSE Act failed this evening on a procedural vote 51-44. But Democrats aren’t going down without some drama.
Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) moved to reconsider the failed cloture vote tomorrow. And sponsor Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) is leading a “midnight vigil” along with Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).
The Democrats pledged, even before the GOP blocked the legislation, to hold onto the Senate floor late into the night tonight in an effort to bring greater attention to the issue and force a second vote on the bill tomorrow.
“We recognize that you don’t win every fight in round one, and this is a fight worth continuing,” said Whitehouse. “Putting an end to secret election spending by special interests is an essential step in protecting middle class priorities. For that reason, we are committed to continuing the debate on the DISCLOSE Act late into the night and asking for a second vote tomorrow if need be. We can’t let the special interests off the hook after just one round.”
The DISCLOSE Act requires any organization that spends $10,000 or more during an election cycle to file a report within 24 hours, identifying any donors who gave $10,000 or more. The sponsor says it will make “political groups posing as social welfare organizations” disclose donors and will prevent corporations and other wealthy interests from using shell corporations to funnel secret money to super PACs.
“Tonight we will debate whether we truly believe in the first three words of our Constitution: ‘We the People.’ The flood of secret money unleashed by Citizens United is drowning out the voice of the people,” said Merkley. “Indeed, those who oppose disclosure are seeking to replace ‘We the People’ with ‘We the Powerful.’ This is wrong in so many ways. It’s way past time to shine a light on the darkness and discover who or what this money really stands for.”
“The DISCLOSE Act will not fix all of the evil effects of Citizens United, but it is certainly a step forward,” said Franken.
Republicans were less dramatic.
“The Senate has now voted on this measure three times,” said Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas). “With 23 million Americans struggling for work and unemployment over 8 percent for 41 straight months, we should be focused on job creation and boosting our weak economy.”
“In its current form, the DISCLOSE Act is closer to a clever attempt at political gamesmanship, than actual reform,” said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), no stranger to campaign finance reform. “By conveniently setting high thresholds for reporting requirements, the DISCLOSE Act forces some entities to inform the public about the origins of their financial support, while allowing others – most notably those affiliated with organized labor – to fly below the Federal Election Commission’s regulatory radar.”
President Obama said in a statement that “instead of standing up for the American people, Republicans stood with big banks and oil companies – special interests that certainly don’t need more clout in Washington.”
“I will continue to do everything I can to repair the deficit of trust between Washington and the American people,” Obama said. “I’m disappointed Republicans in Congress failed to take action and hold corporations and special interests accountable to the American people.”