Not content with the loosened campaign finance rules made possible by Citizens United, the GOP is attempting to pass a stealth provision that would open the big money floodgates even further. Republican leaders added the measure at the last minute to the so-called "CRomnibus" spending bill now under consideration in Congress.
As reported by Politico:
"A provision tucked deep inside the $1.1-trillion spending bill filed by Republicans on Tuesday night would dramatically increase the amount of money a single rich donor could give to national party committees each year -- from $97,200 to as much as $777,600. The provision, inserted as a rider to the bill only hours before it was filed, would mark a further erosion of campaign cash restrictions."
The provision was hidden on page 1,599 of a 1,603-page bill. NBC News reported that House Speaker John Boehner, "along with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, (both) pushed for the campaign finance measure, according to an appropriations committee aide."
In a statement, campaign finance reform leader Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.) put the blame where it belongs. "We're seeing a preview of the Mitch McConnell Senate," said Sarbanes.
"He's attempting to drastically expand the influence of the wealthy and well-connected without even introducing a bill, holding a hearing or allowing a direct vote. By tucking this into a 1,600-page funding bill, Mitch McConnell is essentially saying 'auction off our democracy or I'll shut down the government.'"
Act right now to tell your members of Congress to reject this deal, which would further increase the corrosive influence of big money on our democracy. You can send them a quick e-mail using this tool provided by Public Citizen:
The Hill's constantly updated whip count for this bill shows opposition growing among Democrats and even some Republicans. Observers agree Speaker Boehner needs a substantial chunk of House Democrats to support the spending bill in order for it to pass.
The House is expected to vote on the spending bill sometime on Thursday, with the Senate facing a midnight deadline to pass it. Republican leaders have said they would offer a substitute spending bill to fund the government through January if the CRomnibus is rejected.
Another measure in the bill would give taxpayer subsidies to Wall Street derivatives trading, as first reported by The Huffington Post. The office of Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) called the deal a "Wall Street giveaway."
On Wednesday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) urged Senate Democrats to oppose the spending bill, denouncing it as "a giveaway to most powerful banks in this country."
"This is a democracy, and the American people didn't elect us to stand up for Citigroup, they elected us to stand up for all the people," she said on the Senate floor.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Democrats are "deeply troubled" with the bill's measures. On Wednesday, Pelosi declared, "These provisions are destructive to middle class families and to the practice of our democracy. We must get them out of the omnibus package."
According to The Huffington Post:
Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) and other House members -- including Reps. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.), Donna Edwards (D-Md.), Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) and Jared Polis (D-Colo.) -- issued a joint release calling for the provision to be removed or else they would not support the bill."
An amendment offered by Rep. Deutch to remove the campaign finance provision from the CRomnibus spending bill was not adopted in a House Rules Committee hearing on Wednesday night.
Take five minutes today to e-mail and call your members of Congress. Tell them to reject this blatant attempt to allow the super wealthy to buy more elections!UPDATES
(12:30 pm: Not a single Democrat voted to set up debate on the bill, which narrowly advanced Thursday morning by a one vote margin, 214-212. The Republican-controlled House will now vote on final passage of the bill this afternoon.)
(2:45 pm: Instead of pushing ahead with a vote, the House declared recess at 2 pm, a sign Republicans are scrambling to find enough votes to pass the spending bill. Keep contacting your House members and Senators.)
(3:30 pm: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi issued an open letter to her fellow Democrats saying the recess makes it clear that "Republicans don’t have enough votes to pass the CRomnibus." Meanwhile, liberal Senate Democrats are lining up in opposition.)
(6:40 pm: Rep. Maxine Waters (Calif.), the top Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee, gathered about 20 members in her office Thursday afternoon and worked the phones, countering a White House push to convince wavering Democrats to back the bill. "We don't like lobbying that is being done by the president or anybody else that would allow us to support a bill that...would give a big gift to Wall Street and the bankers who caused this country to almost go into a depression," said Waters. "I'm opposed to it and we're going to fight it." House Democrats went into a closed-door caucus at 5:30 pm to weigh their options.)
(9:50 pm: The CRomnibus has passed the House. The final vote was 219-206, only one more vote than needed. Now it moves on to the Senate. If the House had rejected it, the Senate leadership was prepared to quickly pass a three-month continuing resolution funding the government. Instead, as reported by CNN, "the Senate will agree to a two day extension of current funding levels to give itself time to approve the House bill." So the fight continues into the weekend.)
(Friday, 10:50 am: Outgoing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid wants a vote on the spending bill by this evening, although the deadline for action before a shutdown is now pushed back to midnight Saturday. Whether a vote proceeds today or not depends on "possible delays prompted by Democrats who want to air complaints over contentious provisions" in the bill. We need to keep contacting our Senators.)
(Friday, 10:30 pm: The Senate has recessed without a vote on the CRomnibus.
Earlier today, it passed a voice vote extending the government's current funding through midnight Wednesday. According to CBS News, a cloture vote to end debate is expected Monday when the Senate returns to work. Today, Sen. Warren introduced an amendment to strip out the bill's Wall Street giveaways. But Sen. Harry Reid shut down that option when he "made a procedural move Friday evening that would set up a vote on final passage in the Senate no later than Monday," as reported by CNN.
"By making the procedural move, Reid prevented...amendments from being considered. Amendment votes could have been risky because if (any) passed, the spending bill would have to go back to the House to be voted on again. While the House is technically in session, most members have left Washington until the new Congress convenes in early January."
Let's stand with Sen. Warren and keep calling the Senate. The toll-free number for the Capitol switchboard is 1-888-291-9824.)
(Saturday, 6:15 pm: The Senate recessed Friday night without a vote on the CRomnibus, but came back into session today. Before the recess, a small faction of Tea Party Senators led by Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz attempted to force a vote on President Obama's immigration executive orders, and used procedural tactics late Friday night that delayed a previously agreed-to voice vote extending the government's current funding through midnight Wednesday. That funding extension was finally passed this afternoon.)
(Saturday, 10:40 pm: In an unexpected move, Senate leaders reached an agreement on moving the CRomnibus vote forward tonight instead of Monday. The bill passed by a 56-40 vote, and now heads to President Obama's desk, who plans to sign it.
The silver lining in this battle was that it showed Sen. Elizabeth Warren is willing to take on Wall Street and the super wealthy when it comes to fighting for the American people.)