The Senate on Monday rejected a Democratic effort to move forward with campaign finance legislation.
In a 51-44 vote that fell along party lines, the Senate blocked the DISCLOSE Act, the Democrats’ most recent attempt to answer the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision with legislation. Sixty votes were necessary for the bill to move forward.
The bill would require companies, unions and other entities to report campaign spending of more than $10,000.
Democrats were expected to continue the debate into the evening to call attention to the issue. They are describing a series of speeches set to go into Tuesday morning as a “midnight vigil.”
“We recognize that you don’t win every fight in round one, and this is a fight worth continuing,” the Senate bill’s lead sponsor, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), said Monday in a statement. “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.”
Republicans accused Democrats of setting up a vote they knew would fail in order to score political points against the GOP. They also criticized Democrats for not taking action on the Bush tax rates, which are set to expire at the end of the year. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) argued a tax increase would hurt the economy at a time of high unemployment.
“For 40 straight months of unemployment above 8 percent … and our friends in the majority want us to pass this bill that everyone from the ACLU to the NRA is opposed to,” McConnell said seconds before the campaign finance vote. “This is an ultimate waste of Senate time.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) countered: “We know the Republicans don't like disclosure. You can find that from the person they're going to nominate for the President of the United States,” a reference to Mitt Romney not releasing more of his tax returns.
Democrats argued it is necessary to limit the amounts corporations and individuals can give for political messaging. Without restrictions, they argue the rich and corporations will have too powerful a voice.
“I believe that the amount of money in American politics today is stealing America's democracy,” Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) said. "It is robbing Americans of the right to have the kind of representation and the kind of discussion that Americans deserve."
The Senate failed to advance a similar bill in 2010, which would have required reporting after $600 in campaign spending.