03/14/2014 05:28 pm ET Updated May 14, 2014

Senate Democrats Quietly Fold to Allow Senator McConnell to Repeal Portion of Presidential Financing System

Meanwhile Senator McConnell Continues to Block All Campaign Finance Reform Measures, Including the Essential DISCLOSE Act.

Senate Democrats Tuesday quietly folded to allow Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to repeal a portion of the presidential public financing system.

Senate Democrats agreed to a unanimous consent request by Senate Republicans to act on House passed legislation to accomplish this result and the legislation passed by voice vote without Senators recording their votes on the bill.

The bill, H.R. 2019, purports to provide for a 10-year pediatric research initiative, but in reality the bill does not provide any actual increased funds to conduct pediatric research. At the same time, the bill repeals the presidential convention funding portion of the presidential public financing system purportedly to pay for the pediatric research, as part of an effort to repeal the whole presidential public financing system.

Inexplicably, Senate Democrats allowed Senator McConnell to repeal a provision of the campaign finance laws while Senator McConnell continues his stonewalling tactics to successfully block all campaign finance reform measures sought by Senate Democrats.

Senator McConnell's successful filibusters have included blocking the DISCLOSE Act, essential legislation to close gaping disclosure loopholes that allowed nonprofit groups to launder more than $300 million in secret contributions into the 2012 national elections.

The DISCLOSE Act received majority votes in the Senate 2010 and 2012, but passage was blocked by Senate filibusters led by Senator McConnell.

Not one single Democratic Senator was willing to say no to the unanimous consent request to pass Tuesday's legislation to repeal part of the presidential financing system.

Not one Democratic Senator was willing to say the Senate should not consider this "fig-leaf" legislation to repeal a portion of the campaign finance laws, while the Senate is being blocked from acting on any campaign finance reform measures -- and in particular disclosure legislation essential to providing voters with campaign finance information they have a right to know.

The failure of Senate Democrats to challenge Senator McConnell on the legislation passed Tuesday while McConnell blocks all campaign finance reform bills raises serious questions about just how committed Senate Democrats are to addressing the nation's campaign finance problems.

Reform groups that oppose the legislation passed by the Senate Tuesday include Americans for Campaign Reform, Brennan Center for Justice, the Campaign Legal Center, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, Common Cause, Democracy 21, Demos, the League of Women Voters, Public Citizen and U.S PIRG.

Democracy 21 strongly urges President Obama to veto Tuesday's Senate passed bill when it reaches his desk and strongly urges Senate and House Democrats to vote to sustain a veto.

The legislation passed by the Senate Tuesday is a "fig-leaf" bill passed by the House last December. H.R. 2019 is not a real effort to increase funding for pediatric research, but rather the fourth attempt by House Republican leaders, beginning in the last Congress, to repeal the presidential public financing system, with H.R. 2019 being a part of this effort.

The presidential public financing system served the nation and presidential candidates of both parties well for more than 25 years. The presidential system is broken now as a result of the failure of Congress to update and modernize it and the system should be repaired, not repealed. H.R. 270 sponsored by Representatives David Price (D-NC) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) is comprehensive campaign finance reform legislation that would repair the presidential financing system.

In a Dear Colleague letter opposing H.R. 2019 sent to House members on December 11, 2013, Representatives Nita Lowey (D-NY), Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ) stated that H.R. 2019 would not actually increase spending for pediatric research. According to the Dear Colleague letter:

The stated purpose of H.R. 2019 is to terminate the public contribution to the cost of quadrennial political party nominating conventions and redirect the savings into research on childhood diseases at the National Institute of Health (NIH). While, we strongly support efforts to increase funding for pediatric research and other research at NIH, we caution our colleagues that H.R. 2019 would do nothing to advance that goal.


This legislation would indeed end public support for the expenses of the party conventions. It purports to make the resulting savings available to NIH, a mere $12.6 million per year, or about four-tenths of one percent of the roughly $3.6 billion that NIH reported spending on pediatric research last year.


The appropriations needed to make these "Kids First" funds available for pediatric research would be ordinary discretionary appropriations, just like any others for NIH. They would be fully subject to the Budget Control Act caps--as reduced by sequestration--and to the budget resolution spending allocations to the Appropriations Committee and Labor-HHS- Education Subcommittee. It is those caps and allocations, combined with sequestration, that have been driving down funding for NIH research and many other important national needs.