With the DISCLOSE Act still stalled in the Senate, President Obama took the opportunity on Saturday to scold the GOP leadership for its recalcitrance in working with Democrats at all on campaign finance issues. It’s the second time in as many months, in fact, that Obama has devoted major air time to the bill:
“In fact, this is the kind of proposal that Democrats and Republicans have agreed on for decades,” Obama said while decrying the Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision from earlier this year, which allows corporations, unions and other associations to spend unlimited dollars directly advocating for or against political candidates. “Yet, the Republican leaders in Congress have so far said ‘no.’ They’ve blocked this bill from even coming up for a vote in the Senate. It’s politics at its worst. But it’s not hard to understand why.”
The “why,” Obama explained, is that “a partisan minority in Congress is hoping their defense of these special interests and the status quo will be rewarded with a flood of negative ads against their opponents.” An election isn’t only at stake, Obama added in arguing “it’s our democracy itself” that’s at risk.
As far as talking points go, pointing out Republicans’ unwillingness to act at all on the issue of campaign finance disclosure is a winning issue for Democrats. For years, Republicans who opposed limits on campaign spending pointed to full disclosure and transparency as the sensible middle ground. Now that outside groups and individuals are free to spend unlimited amounts of money on campaigns, however, the GOP is pushing the goal lines back and talking up the undue burden of disclosure requirements.
When it comes to passing the bill, however, Dems have no choice but to court the vote of at least one Republican — and it’s not quite clear how hard they’re working to do so. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y), who is in charge of pushing the bill in the Senate, keeps imploring wavering Republicans to talk to him about their concerns, but there’s little indication that this is actually happening. Aside from canned statements, both his office and that of Maine Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins (the Republicans most likely to agree to a deal) are staying mum.