WASHINGTON — The Senate last week shelved a campaign finance bill that would have required more disclosure of money spent by corporations, labor unions and other interests to influence federal elections.
Supporters of the so-called DISCLOSE Act failed to overcome a filibuster by Republicans who claimed the bill was an attempt to give Democrats the upper hand in this year’s elections.
The vote was 57-41, while 60 votes were needed to advance the bill.
The legislation was introduced following the Supreme Court ruling in January that said corporations have free speech rights the same as individuals and can spend from their treasuries on elections.
President Barack Obama and Democrats said the ruling would pervert the election process by allowing corporations unlimited spending to sway voters.
The "Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light On Spending in Elections" bill would require certain groups funding campaign commercials to report the identities of their largest donors.
It would require corporate chiefs to appear in company ads, while banning election spending by companies that received bailout money or have big government contracts.
Critics said the bill would infringe on free speech. They also criticized exemptions that were negotiated into the bill to exempt the National Rifle Association.
Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., supported the bill but voted against it in a procedural move that allowed him as Senate majority leader to bring it up again at a future time. Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., did not vote.
War Funding Finalized
The House gave final approval to a $58.8 billion spending bill, with most of the funds earmarked to continue paying for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The vote was 308-114. Most Republicans voted for it while Democrats were split.
Critics said they were concerned about progress in Afghanistan and whether the United States should wind down its involvement.
Reps. Shelley Berkley and Dina Titus, both D-Nev., voted for the bill. Rep. Dean Heller, R-Nev., did not vote.
In a related vote, Democrats opposing the Afghanistan war proposed a resolution that would force the United States to withdraw soldiers from neighboring Pakistan by the end of the year.
Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, said U.S. special forces are in Pakistan amid reports that raise questions about that country’s commitment to fighting the Taliban.
"What I am trying to do here … is to stop expanding the U.S. forces’ footprint in Pakistan so that we stop an expanding war," Kucinich said.
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., said the resolution "is less about U.S. policy toward Pakistan than it is about Afghanistan and a backdoor attempt to force U.S. withdrawal from that country."
The resolution was defeated, 38-372. Berkley and Titus voted against it. Heller did not vote.
Bill protects guns in bankruptcies
The House voted 307-113 to exempt guns from being repossessed from people in bankruptcy.
Rep. John Boccieri, D-Ohio, said financial hardship "should not affect a person’s individual constitutional rights and their ability to protect their family."
Boccieri said guns should be added to the list of items that debtors can retain during bankruptcy, along with household goods and health aids.
He said in many families guns are passed down as heirlooms and should not be repossessed.
Rep. Dan Lungren, R-Calif., said the bill would affect 16 states that allow residents to choose between packages of federal or state exemptions during bankruptcy.
Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, D-N.Y., spoke against the bill.
"What is special about guns that they should have a special carve-out?" she said. "Studies have shown that the presence of guns in households, especially those experiencing bankruptcy, enhances the risk of suicide or, even worse, murder-suicide."
Berkley, Titus and Heller voted for the bill.
Contact Stephens Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-783-1760.