You can be excused for assuming that Senate Democrats don’t even particularly want the DISCLOSE Act to proceed to the floor today, otherwise they would be making arrangements to have all the Senators in the caucus available for the vote:
Senate Democrats will be one vote down when they consider sweeping campaign finance disclosure legislation this afternoon as Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn) has told party leadership he will miss the vote to attend a friend’s funeral.
The senator’s absence reduces the caucus’s numbers from 59 to 58 voting members, all but assuring that the DICLOSE Act won’t pass when it comes up for a cloture vote Tuesday afternoon. The legislation’s authors were already having difficulty finding a 60th vote to break a likely Republican filibuster. Without Lieberman, they will need two Republicans to cross party lines as opposed to one. Already two of the three most likely defectors — Sens. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) — have said they will oppose the measure.
The concern, said the leadership aide, “is that it will allow [Senator Olympia] Snowe (R-Maine) to vote yes and yet we fall short.”
If the Democrats wanted a bill, they’d find a way to vote on it with Lieberman present. If they wanted a talking point, they’d vote on it whenever, so they can keep it under discussion and paint Republicans as special interest-worshipping tools. So this delay allows more time for grassroots organizing and general blasting of the GOP.
The Democratic caucus does appear united. Even Ben Nelson plans to vote for the motion to proceed today. Therefore, all the no votes will come from Republicans, and Snowe may or may not join them, though it won’t affect the final outcome. I’d expect the Democrats to take up the DISCLOSE Act a second time when Lieberman can make the vote. But I don’t think they’re exactly sad about him missing it today, as it helps them extend the debate over it.
Hilariously, Mitch McConnell said this morning that the DISCLOSE Act vote is an unnecessary pivot “away from a small-business lending bill.” Who knew McConnell was for that? In fact, he and most of his caucus voted against the small business lending fund at the heart of that bill, and he’ll probably vote against cloture and final passage of it when it comes up. [continued, with updates, after the jump]
Ultimately, if enough pressure can be placed on Snowe, the Democrats may be able to get this version of the DISCLOSE Act through. But they’d welcome some time to apply the pressure on the GOP.
UPDATE: Snowe is saying what she’s said for a while, that she’ll vote against the DISCLOSE Act because it’s “premature” and needs additional time… to gestate, I guess. I think that’ll suit the Democrats just fine.
UPDATE II: Interesting. The AFL-CIO has just formally opposed the Senate’s version of the bill, because of the “affiliate transfer” disclosure issue. The House version would not have forced disclosure on transfers between union affiliates within a federation, but the Senate killed that provision in their version. In a statement, AFL-CIO Government Affairs Director Bill Samuel said: “The Senate bill imposes extraordinary new, costly, and impractical record-keeping and reporting obligations on thousands of labor (and other non-profit) organizations with regard to routine inter-affiliate payments that bear little or not connection with public communications about federal elections.”