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Senate Democrats Eye DISCLOSE Act Again

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, a lead sponsor of the DISCLOSE Act, said that depending on the court’s actions in a Montana case this week, Democrats would “redouble our efforts.”

On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he again would bring up the bill to address the Citizens United decision.

“We’re going to move on the DISCLOSE Act anyway,” the Nevada Democrat said when asked whether the Supreme Court’s actions in the Montana case would affect the Senate strategy on the issue.

Privately, leadership aides have suggested the actual chances of the Senate taking up the bill aren’t clear. The Senate still has a lot of work left to do, from appropriations bills to cybersecurity legislation and a slate of judges — all of which are a higher priority than the campaign finance measure.

The DISCLOSE Act has failed twice to garner a filibuster-proof 60 votes, once in July 2010 and again that September. The second time Senate Democrats brought the bill to the floor, sources indicated it was mostly because leaders had a few legislative days to burn, so they figured they could message the issue before moving on again.

It is very unlikely Democrats would be able to peel away enough Senate GOP votes to approve the bill, and even if they could, it is almost certain to hit a wall in the Republican-led House.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has been an outspoken opponent of reform. In a speech at the American Enterprise Institute last week, the Kentucky Republican railed on the twice-failed legislation.

“The attacks on speech are legion. Perhaps the most prominent is the so-called DISCLOSE Act,” he said. “Those pushing the DISCLOSE Act have a simple view: If the Supreme Court is no longer willing to limit the speech of those who oppose their agenda, they’ll find other ways to do it.”

The speech at the Republican-leaning think tank opened McConnell to attacks from Democrats in a small-scale version of a battle leaders could stage on the floor if Reid decides to restart the DISCLOSE debate on the floor with Schumer as the top messenger.

“Senator McConnell’s entire speech was an exercise in twisted logic and double-speak. He has gone from being the greatest champion of disclosure to being its foremost opponent,” Schumer said in a statement after the speech.

McConnell filed an amicus brief to the pending Montana case stating that the state Supreme Court’s decision should be “summarily reversed.”

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