By Russell Berman - 06/23/10 11:50 PM EDT
House Democrats moved closer to a Thursday vote on their signature campaign finance bill despite ongoing concerns from liberal members of their caucus.
Democratic leaders were whipping votes throughout Wednesday and proclaimed the Disclose Act “on track” for passage Thursday. The House Rules Committee was meeting Wednesday to finalize floor guidelines for the bill.
House liberals revolted last week after an exemption was tailored for the National Rifle Association (NRA).
Authors of the legislation later widened the provision to exempt other groups, but the change did not satisfy all members’ concerns.
Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.), a member of the Congressional Black Caucus who led efforts to amend the NRA exemption, took to the floor Wednesday morning to protest the final version of the bill.
“As an early co-sponsor of Disclose, I am dismayed that we’ve fallen prey to bullying and threats from one of the most powerful lobbying organizations in the country,” Edwards said. “Carving out an exception on behalf of one big group like this is just not the way to do reform. Shame on us.”
Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), co-chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, also said Wednesday he was leaning against voting for the Disclose Act. “I continue to lean no, but it’s a very difficult vote, because I realize what’s at stake,” Grijalva told The Hill.
Opponents of the bill stepped up their efforts in the final hours. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Business both announced that they would include the House vote on their congressional scorecards, indicating the priority status of the bill.
The office of the legislation’s architect, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), highlighted new endorsements throughout the day, including a letter of support from a senior member of the Blue Dog Coalition, Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D-N.D.). Blue Dogs have been wary of the legislation because of the staunch opposition by the Chamber of Commerce.
Democrats and Republicans sparred over the legislation at the Rules Committee meeting, with GOP lawmakers assailing the bill as an infringement of free speech.
Supporters of the bill defended the exemption for the NRA, saying the powerful gun-rights group was a less critical target of campaign finance reform because it is one of several advocacy organizations that do not try to hide their political influence in advertising.
“In fact, they advertise it. They let the sun shine in,” Rep. James McGovern (D-Mass.) said.
Van Hollen was pressed on whether the Disclose Act stood a chance of actually becoming law, given the reservations that have been expressed by Democratic Sens. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.) and Frank Lautenberg (N.J.) about the exemptions included in the bill. He cited a letter sent Tuesday by Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) pledging action on the bill if it passes the House.
“We take them at their word that they are going to move forward with this legislation,” Van Hollen told the Rules Committee.