They only needed one.
Without changing any part of a campaign finance disclosure bill that Republicans already blocked once this year, Senate Democrats re-submitted the DISCLOSE Act Thursday with hopes that just one GOP moderate would take the bait.
Surprise, the identical bill failed again.
The bill would have ensured groups that run political advertisements to disclose their funding sources but a host of exemptions for large special interests, add-ons and loose rules for unions, gave Republicans who historically favor increasing campaign finance restrictions enough pause to vote it down.
The Senate voted strictly on party lines not to proceed, leaving Democrats just one vote shy of the 60 needed to receive cloture.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid blamed Republicans for blocking the vote and accused them of secretly riding on the backs of large corporate donations.
“The outcome of today’s vote shows the difference between Democrats who believe voters should be in control of our elections and Republicans who want to allow big corporations to buy their outcomes behind closed doors,” Reid said in a statement.
Despite the many items the Senate must address before the end of the year, including votes on whether to extend the Bush-era tax cuts, a defense spending bill and a resolution to keep the government running, Reid instead called for a vote on a campaign finance disclosure bill that most observers said was likely to fail anyway.
Beyond a largely symbolic amendment that New York Sen. Charles Schumer promised to add, little was done to fix the problems that caused the bill to nosedive in the first place.
So with the other pressing concerns on the Senate’s agenda, why use up time in a congressional session that will likely be cut short anyway?
There is still no clear consensus among the Democratic leadership that it would be wise to call for a vote to extend the Bush-era tax cuts before the November elections. In the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Whip Steny Hoyer have released conflicting statements about whether to take a vote. In the Senate, Reid supports holding a vote, but does not appear to be making the moves necessary to make it happen before Congress adjourns. Meanwhile, his colleague, California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, said this week that she did not know how anyone “in their right mind” would call for a vote on taxes before an election.
As late as Thursday afternoon, Massachusetts Democratic Sen. John Kerry voiced skepticism that the Senate could put the tax cuts up for a vote even if they wanted to.
“I don’t know if it’s possible, timing wise,” Kerry said. “I’m not sure we can get it completed.”
And if they could find the time?
“I don’t think the votes are there right now to do that,” he said.
The internal debate could keep the Democrats gridlocked, leaving them with little strategy other than to put forth bills they know Republicans will object to and try to use them as fuel for campaign ads in the final weeks leading up to the Nov. 2 elections.
UPDATE: A spokesman from Reid’s office announced Thursday that the Senate would delay a vote on extending the tax cuts until after the midterms.