Democrats in Congress are pushing back plans to introduce comprehensive finance reform legislation as a short workweek and an inability to find a Republican co-sponsor in the Senate delayed a planned Thursday launch.
A leadership aide confirmed to the Huffington Post that House Democrats, led by Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), will be introducing their bill "early next week instead of today." The goal had been a Thursday introduction, "but the abbreviated legislative week impacted several remaining items to be finished."
The House is officially out of session by noon on Thursday.
The real obstacle, however, remains the cold feet of Senate Republicans. While Van Hollen was able to secure the backing of Rep. Mike Castle (R-DE) for his bill -- other potential Republican co-sponsors are being targeted too -- Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has been rebuffed so far by his GOP colleagues. Scott Brown (R-Mass), turned down overtures last week, though Senate aides say the Massachusetts Republican could still vote for the bill when it comes to the floor. As it stands now, Schumer is targeting the usual suspects for bipartisan support: the moderates of Maine and George Voinovich of Ohio.
"We cannot be labeled as trying to be partisan here," one senior aide said,
Noticeably absent from the list is Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who co-sponsored the last major attempt at campaign finance reform. The Arizona Republican now finds himself in a tough Republican primary and has tacked hard towards more conservative positions (willingly and publicly abandoning his maverick persona in the process). When it comes to which Senate Republican could end up supporting the bill, his name is now rarely mentioned.
The bills being put forth by Van Hollen and Schumer -- which came in response to the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling allowing corporations to spend unlimited amounts on political campaigns -- are virtually the same. Lawyers are still going over the intricate details. But the substantive proposals are clear. The legislation will require disclosure and disclaimers for groups spending on campaigns, including making CEOs announce they sponsored their ads. There are narrow bans on foreign corporation with domestic subsidiaries from participating in elections. And there are prohibitions on corporations which receive a large amount of taxpayer dollars from participating directly in an election process.
That it has been this difficult to find a single Republican co-sponsor for these measures in the Senate (and so few in the House) frustrates good government groups. Campaign finance legislation polls exceptionally well. It also has become a cause for concern, as the further the legislative process is removed from the Supreme Court's controversial ruling, the more difficult it will likely be to compel lawmakers to act.
"That is true with anything," said Lisa Gilbert, a Democracy Advocate for the group U.S. PIRG. "Right at the moment of hysteria, it is easier to pass anything. That said the polling numbers have stayed the same and people are more and more angry with corporations... I don't think these will bills will lose their populist appeal."
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