President Barack Obama is imploring Republican senators to allow a vote on new campaign finance disclosure requirements, warning them not to resort to political delaying tactics that would block the legislation.
Speaking in the Rose Garden on Monday, Obama said that by standing in the way of the bill, Republicans would be giving special interest groups increased sway in Washington.
"Corporate lobbyists will be able to tell members of Congress, if they don't vote the right way, they will face an onslaught of negative ads in their next campaign," Obama said. "And all too often, no one will actually know who's behind those ads."
The bill would impose new donor and contribution disclosure requirements on nearly all organizations that air political ads independently of candidates or the political parties. The legislation would require the sponsor of the ad to appear in it and take responsibility for it. Obama argued that the bill would also reduce foreign influence over American elections.
"You'd think that making these reforms would be a matter of common sense, particularly since they primarily involve just making sure that folks who are financing these ads are disclosed, so that the American people can make up their own minds," Obama said. "Nobody is saying you can't run the ads; just make sure the people know who in fact is behind financing the ads."
The House narrowly passed a similar bill last month. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., wants to begin debate on the bill Tuesday, but he faces Republican delaying tactics.
The Senate bill, proposed by Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., removes from the House bill an exemption for transfers between a national organization and its state affiliates and between separate organizations, provisions aimed at helping unions.
However, the bill preserves a contentious House exemption for large organizations such as the National Rifle Association and the AARP. It also adds a requirement that campaign money disclosures by Senate candidates be filed electronically, as they are by House and presidential candidates
Companies with federal contracts worth more than $10 million would also be banned from independent political advertising.
Democrats need at least one Republican to support the measure in order to get the 60 votes needed to overcome GOP procedural delays, but their chances of doing so are slim.
So far, not one Senate Republican has swung behind the measure, which is strongly opposed by the party's leadership. Nor is it clear that all 59 Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents will support the bill.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said in a statement Monday that the bill is designed to "protect unpopular Democrat politicians by silencing their critics and exempting their campaign supporters from an all out attack on the First Amendment."
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