Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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July 27, 2010

SENATE GOP BLOCKS VOTE, KILLS DISCLOSE ACT.... We learned earlier today that Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) would be away from Capitol Hill this afternoon, attending a funeral. At that point, it was all but certain that the DISCLOSE Act (Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light On Spending in Elections) would fail today to overcome the latest in an endless line of Republican filibusters.

With every member of the Democratic caucus in the chamber, the bill would need one GOP vote. With Lieberman out for the day, it would need two. And when it comes to promoting campaign disclosure from corporations, labor unions, and non-profit organizations, we saw unanimous Republican opposition to even allowing the Senate to vote.

The final roll call this afternoon was 57 to 41. In a sane world, legislation with 57 supporters and 41 opponents would win. In the U.S. Senate, thanks to scandalous Republican abuses, it loses.

There's just no logic to the GOP refusing to allow a vote on this. It already passed the House -- with a Republican co-sponsor, no less -- and it's really not that controversial.

The DISCLOSE Act would require corporations and interest groups to identify themselves when they sponsor political ads and, in the case of smaller organizations, to reveal their donors.

President Obama and Democratic leaders hoped the bill would, among other things, help undo the damage of the recent Citizens United ruling, in which the Supreme Court threw out limits on corporate political spending. And since the bill merely called to publicize who was putting money into politics, rather than limit that money, Obama and the Democrats hoped they could peel off enough Republican votes to break a filibuster. They were wrong. Not one Republican voted to proceed with debate -- not even after the Democrats modified the bill, in order to address GOP arguments that it would treat unions differently from other groups.

Remember when Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) was a champion of campaign-finance reform? He refused to even let the Senate vote on a simple disclosure bill. Remember when Sens. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), Susan Collins (R-Maine), and Scott Brown (R-Mass.) seemed like the kind of "moderates" who would support an effort like this? All three not only opposed the bill, but supported a filibuster to block a vote.

Democrats intend to use today's vote in the future as an example of ridiculous Republican values. In expectation of the vote, White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer said this morning, "Today's vote has the potential to be a defining one for the Republican party. This [is] a choice between the public and big corporations and the Republicans seem poised to vote en masse for the corporations."

Update: Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), shortly before the vote: "This is a sad day for our democracy. Not only does the Supreme Court give those special interests a huge advantage, but this body says they should do it all in secret without any disclosure. That, my colleagues, transcends this election, transcends Democrat or Republican. It eats at the very fabric of our democracy. It makes our people feel powerless and angry."

Steve Benen 4:10 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (39)

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All Senate Republicans are dickheads.

Posted by: David Bailey on July 27, 2010 at 4:19 PM | PERMALINK

We know what the logic is; the logic is not to allow the government to function. Any vote that President Obama supports - however basic or innocuous to both parties - any vote will not be allowed.

Declaration that the sun's warm glow is yellowish - why that would not only be forbidden; it would be morphed into some twisted bias against asian people. (Please pardon the brush against political correctness.)

Posted by: sduffys on July 27, 2010 at 4:21 PM | PERMALINK

All Senate Republicans are dickheads.

David, I'm not sure why you needed to add "Senate" to that statement.

Posted by: Seitz on July 27, 2010 at 4:28 PM | PERMALINK

Can somebody help me out here? Can somebody at least outline some of the reasons the GOP say they were against the bill? I'm trying to understand the dynamic here.

Thanks.

Posted by: A DC Wonk on July 27, 2010 at 4:28 PM | PERMALINK

The dick head is Ried. He should call a special session,and not let anyone leave till he's got the votes to break the logjam. He's the one with no balls. Call for another vote once LIEberman returns.

Posted by: stevio on July 27, 2010 at 4:28 PM | PERMALINK

Did Reid vote for or against the act? Reid voting against means he's reserving the right to bring it back up, doesn't it?

Posted by: mcc on July 27, 2010 at 4:32 PM | PERMALINK

Remember when Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) was a champion of campaign-finance reform?

McCain-Feingold was a bad law. Perhaps McCain has learned his lesson. Campaign finance "reform" consistently caused more trouble than it has "reformed". Under today's laws, Eugene McCarthy could not have financed his extremely beneficial campaign in 1968.

Posted by: MatthewRMarler on July 27, 2010 at 4:36 PM | PERMALINK

Come on people, Reid is creating compaign issues, forcing tough votes. It will pass in the next month, but in the meantime, Schumer and Bennan get to beat up on the Republican's for obstruction. Give Reid a break. He's guilty of politics, nothing more.

Posted by: Scott F. on July 27, 2010 at 4:38 PM | PERMALINK

57-41 is 98 votes. Who did not vote besides Lieberman?

Posted by: sue on July 27, 2010 at 4:39 PM | PERMALINK

The constant post and commenter response should be: BREAK THE SENATE FILIBUSTER. It is one of the two root causes of the Democrats problem. the other root cause is that the president has proven to be a surprisingly weak political spokesperson/shaper of public opinion.

What if Obama had recognized by March of 09 what many others recognized--- very few, if any, really worthwhile legislation would pass unless the filibuster was broken as priority #1. And he made THAT the #1 priority to get a proper stimulus bill of 1.5T passed, rather that a bill with lots of Blue Dog ornaments having little stimulus multiplier effects. And that Obama and Dem Leaders made a consistent effort to change public opinion (Yes-- REALLY blame Bush and the Republicans for the 2009 Budget deficit and unemployment and openly advocate Keynesian economic solutions.)

“With public sentiment, nothing can fail; without it, nothing can succeed. Consequently he who moulds public sentiment goes deeper than he who enacts statutes or pronounces decisions.”
— Abraham Lincoln

From the beginning (the stimulus bill), Obama has accepted unnecessary limits on the breadth and depth of the changes he advocated. In fact, he has been less of a public advocate as opposed to one of many negotiators around a table. Obama and the Democrats won the election convincingly with large majorities in Congress. Voters, more than they have been in years, are (or at least were)receptive to broad, deep and fundamental shifts in the direction this country is headed. What holds (held) back most of this change is a President more concerned with process and procedure rather than removing major obstacles [especially the filibuster] so as to effectively use his electoral mandate.

The most effective presidents have understood that speaking publicly and rallying people is one of their primary powers-- greater than their veto, ability to command armies or crafting regulations. Great presidents have made broad claims of power because of their popular support. Take FDR:
“I am prepared under my constitutional duty to recommend the measures that a stricken nation in the midst of a stricken world may require. These measures, or such other measures as the Congress may build out of its experience and wisdom, I shall seek, within my constitutional authority, to bring to speedy adoption.
But in the event that the Congress shall fail to take one of these two courses, and in the event that the national emergency is still critical, I shall not evade the clear course of duty that will then confront me. I shall ask the Congress for the one remaining instrument to meet the crisis—broad Executive power to wage a war against the emergency, as great as the power that would be given to me if we were in fact invaded by a foreign foe.”

Where is the Obama equivalent of a freshly elected FDR telling Congress that if it does pass not his agenda, he's going to demand something like the Enabling Act of 1933-- or exercising martial powers as great as those that Lincoln used during a period of armed insurrection! ?? Intransigent opposition politicians repeatedly called FDR a dictator, much as they did Lincoln. But in part because public sentiment was mostly with him and their political futures depended on his success, Congress decided it had better pass the New Deal. Not all of it, but most of it. And the beneficial effects of the legislation were easy to immediately discern its --- unlike complicated insurance reform with most benefits (if they survive) obvious four years hence.

Reformist presidents, at their best, capture the public sentiment and use it to push through measures that entrenched interests are firmly against. Obama has taken on some very tough and complicated issues. But as a political leader, he has largely withdrawn from engagement and has acted as “Compromiser in Chief”. Democratic government is inherently a political business and any president is inherently a political leader. When making fundamental change, politics must be played—and played to win.

For Obama and he Dems, the problem underlying all the partial or complete failures in passing bills for really effective economic stimulus, health care reform, financial system reform, carbon emission reforms, etc., etc.---- is the Senate filibuster requiring 60 votes for cloture rather than a simple majority. Break that--- and effective legislation and popular legislation that has immediate and obvious benefits rapidly follows. The filibuster could have been/can be broken with 50 votes plus Biden. To many, this problem was obvious in early 09. Senate Dems and Obama especially never made the effort. Obama especially still doesn’t seem to recognize the real problem and has made no real effort to move public opinion. Obama and the Democrats are suffering the consequences of not having moved public sentiment that may be very severe in the 11/10 elections and will only get worse after 11/10.


Posted by: gdb on July 27, 2010 at 4:40 PM | PERMALINK

One majority senator, usually Reid, will vote no to preserve the right to bring the matter back for another vote. I suspect that when Lieberman returns the matter will be called up again. win, lose or draw, Republicans are going to have a lot of explaining to do on this vote. The ads write themselves.

Posted by: Ron Byers on July 27, 2010 at 4:41 PM | PERMALINK

dc wonk: Can somebody at least outline some of the reasons the GOP say they were against the bill? I'm trying to understand the dynamic here.

GOP: "REASONS??? WE DON'T NEED NO STINKIN' REASONS!!!"

Posted by: cr on July 27, 2010 at 4:44 PM | PERMALINK

'kay, here's the roll call. Reid voted "no", and this would have been required by procedure so Reid can bring the bill back up again for a vote later, so the bill actually had 58 supporters, not 57. This thing only needs one Republican vote for passage. The Republicans couldn't even provide that.

Looks like it's time to bang like hell on Collins/Snowe/Brown to switch by the time Lieberman gets back.

Posted by: mcc on July 27, 2010 at 4:44 PM | PERMALINK

When did the Senate become like golf, where the lower score wins?

Posted by: c u n d gulag on July 27, 2010 at 4:45 PM | PERMALINK

Sue, and per that link the other nonvoter was John Ensign.

Also, wait-- this isn't a vote on passage, right? Just a vote to begin debate?

Posted by: mcc on July 27, 2010 at 4:46 PM | PERMALINK

MCC - thanks for the roll call. Sue, to answer your question on who else besides Sen. Lieberman; Sen. (why! Still?!) Ensign also did not vote.

Posted by: sduffys on July 27, 2010 at 4:47 PM | PERMALINK

Shouldn't this be a golden opportunity for the Tea Party to prove they are not just an arm of the Republican Party?

Posted by: phg on July 27, 2010 at 4:49 PM | PERMALINK

Republicans: The Party of NO
No ideas, No jobs, No transparency, No accountability

Vote Democratic to end the Era of NO.

Posted by: withay on July 27, 2010 at 5:17 PM | PERMALINK

Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light On Spending in Elections

Just on principle, I think bills with cutsie titles to create a forceful acronym (I'm looking at you USA PATRIOT act) should be filibustered until they change the damn name. Who's in charge of naming bills? An overly clever 12 year old?

Posted by: martin on July 27, 2010 at 5:20 PM | PERMALINK

The Repiglicans tipped their hand by saying the DISCLOSE act would hurt them more in elections! Well, of course ... I hope Dems can capitalize on pointing this out! And martin, I think it is a clever name, period.

Posted by: neil b on July 27, 2010 at 5:23 PM | PERMALINK

I think the Democrats need to have a series of commercials called something like, "Did you know?" and every time something like this happens, they need to have it on heavy rotation...shine a light on every single GOP obstruction or filibuster. I think a huge part of the problem is that this is such standard procedure that the average voter doesn't know about it; the media certainly doesn't report it. This should be an issue being hammered into every voter's head constantly.

Posted by: SMurph on July 27, 2010 at 5:23 PM | PERMALINK

McCain-Feingold was a bad law.

Even if true -- and we must always doubt your bad faith assertions -- so what? How does that justify McCain opposing a campaign finance disclosure law -- especially after his 2000 primary campaign was derailed in part by ads placed by a group posing as supporters of environmental reform but who were, in reality, Bush's oil industry cronies?

Though it's interesting that you've at least dropped your unconvincing pretense as a good faith commentor, shame on you for your dishonest water carrying, Marler.

Posted by: Gregory on July 27, 2010 at 5:31 PM | PERMALINK

This is why there is a Wikileaks: The truth will be exposed by bypassing the anti-journalists and splattering it all over the web. Evenutally, people will see what has been hidden in the back rooms of Congress and business.
Already, according to HuffPost, the Afghan document leaks are being downplayed as old and already known. The MSM is saying, "We already know war is hell, so what is new here?" Well, maybe more people need to see the individual incidents of horrific actions against civilians and non-combatants. Maybe some military families need to step forward and ask why their loved ones are being sacrificed for corporate profit; especially if they are not benefitting from those profits.
And, why are there so many suicides among the military?
Keep exposing the lies and asking Congress why they are covering up the truth.

I am committed to Oneness through Justice and Transformation
peace,
st john

Posted by: st john on July 27, 2010 at 5:32 PM | PERMALINK

"dc wonk: Can somebody at least outline some of the reasons the GOP say they were against the bill? I'm trying to understand the dynamic here."

I read on a couple of wingnut blogs that the reasoning is the bill unfairly favored unions.

I'm betting it's complete horseshit but to be honest I don't know.

Anyone?

Posted by: jharp on July 27, 2010 at 5:34 PM | PERMALINK

And when it comes to promoting campaign disclosure from corporations, labor unions, and non-profit organizations, we saw unanimous Republican opposition to even allowing the Senate to vote.

Is anyone really surprised? As we all know, if there's one thing Republicans hate more than taxes, regulation and Muslims, it's the truth. Like vampires to crosses and roaches to insecticide, they'll do anything to avoid it.

Posted by: electrolite on July 27, 2010 at 6:08 PM | PERMALINK
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-Land of Oz): "This is a sad day for our democracy. Not only does the Supreme Court give those special interests a huge advantage, but this body says they should do it all in secret without any disclosure. That, my colleagues, transcends this election, transcends Democrat or Republican. It eats at the very fabric of our democracy. It makes our people feel powerless and angry."

Behold, the man in love with the sound of his own voice, indulging his penchant for stating the painfully obvious.

Or, as my late grandmother would say bluntly, Chuck Schumer is all meringue and no filling.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on July 27, 2010 at 6:15 PM | PERMALINK

mcc: Passage requires 50 votes after debate. The 60 votes are required to begin debate. Historically these went close to 100-0; voting otherwise was considered thuggish.

Posted by: maverratick on July 27, 2010 at 6:47 PM | PERMALINK

supreme court, LET POLITICAL CORRUPTION REIGN

Republicans, SHOW ME THE MONEY

Rupert MURDOCH, I always wanted to own America.

Posted by: KurtRex1453 on July 27, 2010 at 6:59 PM | PERMALINK

Couldn't Lieberman have skipped to funeral, stayed to vote, and then make a shiva call at the deceased' home?

Posted by: phoebes-in-santa fe on July 27, 2010 at 7:37 PM | PERMALINK

maverratick-- So this is to overcome a Republican filibuster on beginning debate. Later we will need to overcome a Republican filibuster on FINISHING debate, before we can ever get to the 50-50 vote. The second filibuster-- the vote to end debate-- will be the harder one, because some Senators (like Lieberman, who apparently hates unions) might be willing to consider the bill, but oppose either its current wording or its wording after amendment. Remember, the Republicans here aren't even opposing a specific bill: They're opposing the idea of the bill, the class of all possible bills, the idea that we might ever pass a bill even in theory.

Posted by: mcc on July 27, 2010 at 7:48 PM | PERMALINK


If this Act was supposed to be so honorable, then why did it exempt various and large, established, interest groups such as NRA, AARP, Sierra Club, Human Society etc.? Why did the Dems think those groups deserved 1st Amendment rights while other varied and lesser groups did not? This is so hypocritical and the legislation deserved to go down in defeat for that alone as far as I am concerned! What a political joke!


he bill also included a gaping carve out for the National Rifle Association and other large, established interest groups, setting up a two-tiered First Amendment: one set of rights for the most powerful organizations and other set of rights for other grassroots groups.

Posted by: Carolyn Simms on July 27, 2010 at 8:09 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe it did that because those organizations are required to get most of their money from their tens (hundreds?) of thousands of individual members. In the case of AARP or the NRA, it is the organization that is sponsoring the ads and it is doing so with member money.

As opposed to say, the Chamber of Commerce which routinely acts as a money laundering organization for independent political expenditures. Taking in millions of dollars from a single company or industry and then turning around and spending that money on ads specifically requested by those donors, so that the donors can try to influence elections without anyone knowing who they are.

Posted by: tanstaafl on July 27, 2010 at 10:25 PM | PERMALINK

Speaking as a life long liberal, the Senate republicans were right. The DISCLOSE Act before the Senate was unconstitutional legislation. See http://www.aclu.org/files/assets/Ltr_to_Senate_re_ACLU_opposes_DISCLOSE_Act.pdf

Posted by: Michael Masinter on July 27, 2010 at 10:39 PM | PERMALINK

Surely we'll hear about the need for a simple up-or-down vote now from the Democrats, right? And they'll just keep repeating that, the media will keep repeating that, and the Republicans will back down from their unAmerican, undemocratic position of never letting the majority win, right?

Sigh...

Posted by: kitsune on July 28, 2010 at 12:49 AM | PERMALINK

Gee, poor babies. First I don't care for David Bailey's very ignorant remark about body parts, but you poor guys just don't get it. Everything the Premier or Czar Obama wants is not necessarily good for the country. We are quite honestly sick and tired of having bad bills driven down our throats. Someone said the House voted for it. Wow, that makes it certain to be a bad bill. They voted for Cap and Tax too, and that's a horribly bad bill. There is never debate, never civil discussion, never compromise, never add a GOP amendment, never concede a point. You are the party of "no" if a GOP senator suggests something. You no longer have 60 votes without some wimp of a Republican. Why wouldn't we use it? You did for decades. And tricky dirty Harry knows how the game is played. You'll get your bill but it will be by the same perverse rules of the senate you are now condemning.

Posted by: Darrell on July 31, 2010 at 3:32 PM | PERMALINK

One would have to check out some other news sources to know why the DISCLOSE ACT was not embraced by Senators who supported Campaign Finance reform. For example:
"The DISCLOSE Act would move away from election laws in this country that treat unions and corporations alike. Instead, it would favor union speech over corporate speech. The bill would provide a clear and unfair advantage to unions, while either shutting other organizations out of the election process or subjecting them to onerous reporting requirements that would not apply to unions. For example, a defense contractor would not be able to finance independent campaign expenditures, but the union representing the contractor's workforce would be able to do so. This unequal treatment is what any campaign finance reform legislation should protect against.
"I am also disappointed that this bill continues to contain so many carve outs and exemptions that favor some grassroots organizations over others. This is discriminatory, unconstitutional and unfair.
SENATOR SUSAN COLLINS OF MAINE AT http://Collins.senate.gov/

Posted by: Gina Barrow on July 31, 2010 at 4:08 PM | PERMALINK

One would have to check out some other news sources to know why the DISCLOSE ACT was not embraced by Senators who supported Campaign Finance reform. For example:
"The DISCLOSE Act would move away from election laws in this country that treat unions and corporations alike. Instead, it would favor union speech over corporate speech. The bill would provide a clear and unfair advantage to unions, while either shutting other organizations out of the election process or subjecting them to onerous reporting requirements that would not apply to unions. For example, a defense contractor would not be able to finance independent campaign expenditures, but the union representing the contractor's workforce would be able to do so. This unequal treatment is what any campaign finance reform legislation should protect against.
"I am also disappointed that this bill continues to contain so many carve outs and exemptions that favor some grassroots organizations over others. This is discriminatory, unconstitutional and unfair.
SENATOR SUSAN COLLINS OF MAINE AT http://Collins.senate.gov/

Posted by: Gina Barrow on July 31, 2010 at 4:10 PM | PERMALINK

I love to hear Liberals whine. It means America is safe from their deceptive plots to dismantle individual freedom. Read the Bill, you misguided and uninformed fools. This latest attempt to quiet the public outrage against the abuses of this Congress and Presidency will not succeed. In short order, Conservatives and Libertarians will repeal any and all of these protectionistic measures. This time, when you threaten to leave the USA rather than live under a Republican Administration, please DO!!!

Posted by: DLMinVA on August 6, 2010 at 4:49 PM | PERMALINK

In associated thing, Tiger Woods is now a Cheetah.

Posted by: Used Golf Clubs on September 21, 2010 at 1:03 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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