Senate Democrats launched a rare, all-night debate on Monday that was scheduled to last past midnight, to protest Senate Republicans' opposition to legislation that would require companies, unions and other groups to report their campaign spending.

Democrats warned that they would hold a "midnight vigil" if Republicans blocked the vote on their bill, and they began shortly before 7 p.m., just minutes after GOP did in fact unanimously oppose the bill. Democrats were hoping to end debate on the bill, which needed 60 votes, but the vote failed 51-44.

ADVERTISEMENT
Democrats immediately lined up more than a dozen speakers, and planned to debate the bill until 1 a.m., and then take up the issue again Tuesday morning.

The bill, S. 3369, is the Democrats' answer to the 2010 Supreme Court ruling, which said the government cannot limit campaign spending by companies and other entities. Democrats begged to differ, and throughout the day said that ruling has allowed "murky" and "shadowy" groups to form around money donated anonymously, which can have a significant impact on campaigns.

"For the last two years, our Democracy has been hijacked by powerful special interests, and tonight we had the opportunity to begin repairing the fabric of our nation's democracy before permanent damage is done," Sen. Robert MenendezRobert MenendezThe Mideast-focused Senate letter we need to see Taiwan deserves to participate in United Nations The way forward on the Iran nuclear deal under President Trump MORE (D-N.J.) said as the debate began. "Unfortunately, Republicans decided not to put our democracy back on the right track."

Sen. Sherrod BrownSherrod BrownAuthor of Hillbilly Elegy encouraged to run for Senate: report Overnight Finance: Trump moves to begin NAFTA talks | Dems press Treasury chief on taxes, Dodd-Frank | Biz leaders want tax changes to be permanent Mnuchin mum as Dems press for answers on tax reform, Dodd-Frank MORE (D-Ohio) and several others proceeded to the floor to cite examples of how groups are trying to influence elections, without giving voters any way to find out who is behind the message.

"I rise… because the corporations involved and the investors are flooding our elections with campaign money," Brown said. "We don't really know who the money's from. We can guess. In my state, we think it's from oil companies, we think it's Wall Street banks, we think it could be money from Chinese interests."

Democrats were hoping to keep the issue alive and push for another vote to end debate on Tuesday. Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidGOP frustrated by slow pace of Trump staffing This week: Congress awaits Comey testimony Will Republicans grow a spine and restore democracy? MORE (D-Nev.) voted against ending debate, which gives him the option of calling it up again, and he indicated afterwards that he would call another vote.

But debate appeared unlikely to sway any Republicans into changing their vote, and the GOP cast the move as an effort to politicize an issue that should be much further down the list of priorities, given ongoing unemployment in the United States. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellTrump got harsher GOP reception than Bush on budget Franken explains why he made an exception to diss Cruz in his book The Memo: Trump returns to challenges at home MORE (R-Ky.) said just before the vote that Democrats are wasting their time on a bill that he said would give the government a tool to "intimidate" groups, since it would require them to report how they spend money on campaigns.

"Not only should we not be doing this in good times, but to waste the Senate's time on a proposal totally without merit at a time when our economy is in the tank is the ultimate waste of the Senate's time," McConnell said. "I strongly urge a 'no' vote.