Will a last-ditch vote on the DISCLOSE Act make it onto the lame-duck calendar?
Momentum is building for Democrats to try one last time to pass a version of the DISCLOSE Act once Congress resumes, this time without the extraneous (and some say, onerous) prohibitions on campaign spending by federal contractors or companies with partial foreign-ownership. The New York Times and Politico are both buzzing about the fact that Senator-elect Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), who will be seated when Congress resumes, has had some positive things to say about donor disclosure while on the campaign trail, and they also make the obvious point that a change in the House and Senate seat math makes the possibility of doing anything next year that much more difficult.
But will a vote on a new, leaner bill make it onto the Senate’s packed lame-duck schedule? Democrats following the issue assure me that they’re fighting to include it in the mix, but they’re up against a lot of competing demands that Senate Majority leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) must juggle, from the Start Treaty to an omnibus appropriations bill to food safety to the looming expiration of the Bush tax cuts. They also note that a stripped-down version of the bill couldn’t be called up at a moment’s notice — like Reid was able to do the last time he called a vote on DISCLOSE — but would instead have to be introduced the old fashioned way and would probably eat up between two and three days of precious Senate floor time as a result.
The biggest issue weighing on the Democrats’ decision, by far, is whether a disclosure-only bill would actually convince any GOP senators to change their mind on the issue. Both Democrats and campaign finance advocates make it clear that they’ve been reaching out the offices of Republicans like Maine Sens. Olympia Snowe (R) and Susan Collins (R) since the spring, asking for their views on what they’d like to see (or not see) in the bill. In recent months, however, that line of communication has basically gone dead.
So would a disclosure-only bill represent the right show of good faith to win back their support? Or would it simply lead to a symbolic floor vote in which Democrats force Republicans to take a stand on the issue of disclosure? I’m waiting to hear back from Snowe and Collins’ offices to get their version of events and whether they think there’s any hope of reviving the conversation, and I’ll write about it if and when I hear back.