By BURGESS EVERETT
9/8/14 7:01 PM EDT
Several Senate Republicans joined Democrats on Monday to advance a constitutional amendment that would give Congress and the states greater power to regulate campaign finance.
But the bipartisanship ends there.
Many of the Republicans only voted for the bill to foul up Democrats’ pre-election messaging schedule, freezing precious Senate floor time for a measure that ultimately has no chance of securing the two-thirds support necessary in both the House and Senate to amend the Constitution.
The legislation needed 60 votes to advance and Democrats took a cynical view of the 79-18 tally. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said the GOP’s tactic was simply to “stall” because it would eat up limited floor time that Democrats are eyeing for votes aimed at encouraging gender pay equity and raising the minimum wage.
(McConnell for POLITICO Magazine: The Democrats' assault on free speech)
“They know we’re getting out of here fairly shortly and they want to prevent discussion on other very important issues,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). “I would love to be proven wrong. But if the end of this week, we end up getting 67 votes, you can tell me I was too cynical.”
But campaign finance is not a debate that Senate Republicans are shying away from — and their argument is being led by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who penned an op-ed for POLITICO on Monday that portrayed Democrats as fixated on “repealing the free speech protections the First Amendment guarantees to all Americans.”
“Not surprisingly, a proposal as bad as the one Senate Democrats are pushing won’t even come close to garnering the votes it would need to pass. But to many Democrats, that’s just the point. They want this proposal to fail because they think that somehow would help them on Election Day,” McConnell wrote.
Democrats see electoral benefits in their proposal, pointing to Democratic-commissioned polls in battleground states that show bipartisan majorities in support of limiting big donors’ influence in politics and in opposition to Super PACs. Party leaders and aides believe their campaign finance proposal is popular and places the GOP on the wrong side of public opinion — so some Democratic aides said they were happy for the debate to consume the Senate this week and still plan to hold votes on raising the minimum wage and pay equity before breaking for campaign season.
“They’re volunteering to defend the Koch brothers and a campaign finance system voters hate,” said one Senate aide.
Democrats’ election-year motivations are not lost on Republicans, who argue that economic and health care issues should take up the remaining Senate calendar instead of the doomed constitutional amendment.
“It’s painfully clear that the majority leader’s priorities have everything to do with Nov. 4,” said Minority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas). “It’s all politics all the time, no matter what. So, I’m embarrassed to confront my constituents.”
Democrats’ argument would be made simpler if the GOP simply rejected the constitutional amendment on the first vote, rather than opening debate on it. But now the amendment will be on the Senate floor for several days — allowing perhaps the last substantive debate of the election season over something that voters can’t avoid: An unprecedented flow of outside money into the election season. With two months until the election, eight Senate races have seen more than $10 million in outside spending pour in, according to the Federal Election Commission.
“The money is focused on Senate and House races. They will again break all records,” Reid said. “We’re faced with a choice: Keep the status quo or change it.”
Ahead of the vote, Sanders and other pro-reform Democrats like Al Franken of Minnesota, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Tom Udall of New Mexico held a rally on the Capitol grounds with amendment supporters and supporting groups like People for the American Way, Common Cause and Public Citizen. The crowd was a solid mix of reporters and demonstrators with signs reading “Democracy is not for sale.”
But it wasn’t just the press and advocates of the amendment that took in the 30-minute press conference: Representatives of Koch Industries and a top McConnell aide were watching the spectacle as well.
Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2014/09/campaign-finance-senate-constitutional-amendment-110726.html#ixzz3CpTSbZiu