Following up on my piece last week on the newest version of the DISCLOSE Act, which failed a cloture vote to overcome a GOP filibuster last night, and which will face another cloture vote around 3pm Eastern today, I wanted to share this interview of Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island), the lead sponsor of S.3369, conducted by progressive talk radio host Sam Seder at this year’s Netroots Nation conference.
Around the 1:35 mark, Sen. Whitehouse says (emphasis added)
That’s a tweet from Roll Call Senate reporter Niels Lesniewski just after breakfast this morning. Instead of taking up annual appropriations, a rudimentary function of annual fiscal business in Congress, Senate Democrats are instead choosing to attempt to squelch political participation before the November elections.
Emboldened by the response to my piece last week, I put on my political theorist hat this weekend and penned another editorial that has now been published in The Daily Caller. Here’s an excerpt:
“Don’t we all have a right to know,” asks Obama campaign manager Jim Messina in a recent fundraising email, “exactly which corporations and individuals are spending millions in attack ads to influence elections – and what their agendas are?” While we should expect this type of rhetoric from bullies who think that the government should force workers to give up their right to a secret ballot in unionization proceedings, making it easier for Democratic supporters to rake new campaign funds from their peers’ paychecks, this is one of those times when “No” is a complete, forceful, and declarative sentence.
But in fairness to Messina, to whom I wish a swift and humiliating trip to the unemployment line this November, we should (for a moment) take his claim at face value. We should ask, “Upon what moral principle” – we’re talking about rights, after all – “is this ‘right to know’ predicated?”
While Democrats are paying lip-service to holding the IRS accountable for its targeting of Tea Party groups, ex-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is trying to spin the scandal as a reason to limit political speech:
The IRS is under heavy fire from both parties following recent revelations that some in the agency singled out conservative groups for extra scrutiny when they applied for a certain tax-exempt status.
Pelosi condemned those actions Thursday, saying those responsible “were wrong and must be held accountable.” But the Democratic leader was also quick to link the scandal to the broader issue of campaign finance, arguing that the episode would never have happened if Congress overhauled the system to eliminate so-called 501(c)(4) groups altogether.
Those groups, which do not have to disclose their donors, have gained power and prominence since the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision empowered them to participate directly in elections provided they focus primarily on “social welfare” and not candidate advocacy.
“These actions highlight why we must overturn Citizens United,” Pelosi told reporters in the Capitol. “There is a very thin line … that these so-called ‘social welfare’ organizations must make their priority promoting social welfare, rather than engaging in politics. Clearly, this has not been [the case].
The filibuster has been brought back up in American politics. Frustrated by the failure to move the Import-Export bill out of his chamber (though it did pass last night), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has once again brought up the idea of the so-called “nuclear option” to get rid of the procedural tactic to stall legislation:
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) will not attempt to strip Republicans of their power to filibuster before the November election but is leaving open the possibility if Democrats hang on to the Senate.
The Democratic leader caused a stir on Thursday when he slammed a Republican objection to passing Export-Import Bank legislation without amendments and said he should have listened to colleagues who pushed for changes in Senate rules.
But Reid on Monday said he has no plans to attempt to limit Republicans’ ability to block legislation by a tactic known as the constitutional option — or, by critics, as the “nuclear option.”
“We’re not going to do it this Congress,” Reid told The Hill.
Democrats are leaving open the option of rewriting the filibuster rule if they keep their Senate majority. Republicans are unlikely to push for such reform if they capture the chamber because they are ideologically opposed to curtailing the power of the Senate minority.
President Barack Obama and Democrats were not able to get the DISCLOSE Act passed in a legitmate manner, through through constitutional means of passing legislation through the Congress. According to Conn Carroll at the Washington Examiner, Obama is now planning to enact some provisions of bill through an Executive Order, essentially making policy without consent or approval from our legislative body:
According to Republican sources on the Hill, President Obama may be days away from signing an Executive Order that would make many provisions of the failed DISCLOSE Act law by fiat. As we reported last month, the order would require all companies that sign contracts with the federal government to report on the personal political activities of their officers and directors.
The White House claims the EO would make the federal government more transparent. But a quick look at who Obama chose to exempt from the EO shows this is false: unions that sign collective bargaining contracts with the federal government would be exempt from the “disclosure” requirements. The clear intent of this bill is to suppress speech and punish Obama’s enemies.
According to a Congressional Research Service review of Executive Orders over the last 40 years, no White House has ever issued an EO dealing with campaign finance. Signing the DISCLOSE Act EO would be an unprecedented power grab by Obama.
Recently, President Barack Obama and his fellow Democrats have been slamming the United States Chamber of Commerce for spending money on ads in the mid-term election, money they contend is coming from foreign source, which is illegal. The problem with the accusation is that it’s false. The New York Times notes:
[A] closer examination shows that there is little evidence that what the chamber does in collecting overseas dues is improper or even unusual, according to both liberal and conservative election-law lawyers and campaign finance documents.
In fact, the controversy over the Chamber of Commerce financing may say more about the Washington spin cycle — where an Internet blog posting can be quickly picked up by like-minded groups and become political fodder for the president himself — than it does about the vagaries of campaign finance.
The spin from the Obama Administration is that the president is just trying to “draw attention to the inadequacies of campaign disclosure laws.” The DISCLOSE Act, which was shot down in the Senate (twice), would have required PACs and organizations like the Chamber of Commerce to produce their donor lists. That legislation was also an assault on free speech.
Senate Republicans were able to hold together yesterday to filibuster the DISCLOSE Act, legislation that targets political speech as a response to the Citizens United decision:
The measure, known as the Disclose Act, fell one vote short of the 60 needed to break a GOP filibuster in the divided Senate, with Republicans uniformly opposed to the bill. The legislation had also been blocked by Senate Republicans during an earlier vote in July.
The 59-39 vote marks a bitter defeat for Democratic leaders and President Obama, who has repeatedly urged Congress to pass the bill in response to a Supreme Court ruling lifting restrictions on corporate and union political spending.
The outcome represents a major victory for Republicans and major business groups, which lobbied hard against a proposal that they said was an attempt by Democrats to silence GOP-leaning business groups.
You can view the roll call vote here, but there are no surprises. It was a party line vote. Sen. Harry Reid, the leader of Senate Democrats, voted for the bill, which means that the DISCLOSE Act is ostensibly dead. A “nay” vote by the majority leader would have allowed him the right to bring it up at another time.
Rights. They are among the most sacred things that we, as Americans, have. They didn’t come from government, but from the very nature of being human. As a circumstance of birth, we have a right to worship as we desire, the right to defend ourselves from aggression, the right to say what we will, and the right to try and prosper. These rights are ours, regardless of whether governments acknowledge them or not.
However, our rights have been under assault for years. Taxation takes the fruits of our labors for whatever purpose government has entailed. Welfare programs were created to help the needy, but instead create a class of parasites who suck off the funds from those who opt instead to work and produce. Government pretends it has a vested interest in keeping us safe, but that the only way to do it is by removing our means to keep ourselves safe.
Each and every right we have has been attacked at some point. Our right to free speech has been assaulted with so-called “free speech zones” far away from those we wish to speak to. It’s under assault from the DISCLOSE Act that seeks to do nothing more than silence groups who wish to engage in politics. It may come under assault again from the ironically named “Fairness Doctrine” that has been argued should be applied to talk radio – where conservative and libertarian voices thrive – but not network television where progressive voices are the norm.
Far too often, people pick and choose their favorite rights. Many people who support your right to keep and bear arms also supported the PATRIOT Act (another ironically named law) that would render the Fourth Amendment null and void on a whim. Many who support real free speech would take away your right to own a firearm because they’re “scary” or “create violence”. (For the record, my guns have never committed a violent act since I purchased them. Maybe they’re defective?)
Today at 2:15pm, the United States Senate will, for the second time, vote on the DISCLOSE Act. In July, Republicans successfully filibustered the DISCLOSE Act, legislation aimed at curbing political speech in response to the Citizens United decision, from coming to the floor for limited debate and final passage this afternoon by a vote of 57 to 41 (60 votes are needed to move toward a vote for final passage).
Democrats hoped that an adjustment to the bill, which was to change the date the bill would go into law to the beginning of next year, preventing it from affecting the mid-term elections, would lure Republican support.
As Politico reports, it seems all but certain that Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) doesn’t have the votes, but is using the DISCLOSE Act to stall for time until the weekend:
When the defense authorization bill failed to clear cloture Tuesday, Democrats needed a measure to fill floor time before the weekend, and the DISCLOSE Act was one of the few measures in their legislative arsenal that was quickly available.
Having failed cloture once, the campaign bill only requires a less strict “motion to recommit” from Reid to call another cloture vote. New legislation likely would need 30 hours after being filed, 30 hours the Senate doesn’t have.
So even if Democrats know they’re likely short of votes Thursday, the alternative was practically nothing.