By Debra J. Saunders
The Democratic Party has become the entrenched self-preservation party. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is its Pied Piper.
This week, Reid called for a vote on the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Everyone knew the measure would fail, and it did, leaving supporters angry that in his fervor to make Republicans look obstructionist, Reid damaged their cause. Ditto his decision to put the DREAM Act — a measure that would provide citizenship for young people who were in the country illegally but had attended college or served in the military — in a military spending bill.
Why would a political leader call for votes that he knows he will lose? Reid spokesman Jim Manley told Politico, “It’s about Senate Republicans’ pattern of obstructing debate on myriad policies of critical importance to the American people.”
My take: Reid is desperate to gin up anger among Nevada’s Latino and gay voters as he seeks re-election. Toward that end, he appears willing to hurt the very causes he supports.
The latest CBS News/New York Times poll shows that 58 percent of voters disapprove of how the Democrats are running Congress, and Reid is about to give skeptics more reason to think less of Reid and company.
Today Reid will hold a re-vote on the DISCLOSE Act, which is supposed to stand for “Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending in Elections.” Supporters argue that this campaign-finance reform measure simply would bring transparency to independent campaign expenditures. As Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., sponsor of the bill, once put it, “All we’re saying is that if you attack us, put your name on the ad.”
But there is such a thing as too much disclosure. As the ACLU’s Washington legislative director wrote of a House version of the bill, “The DISCLOSE Act mandates disclaimers on television and radio advertisements that are so burdensome they would either drown out the intended message or discourage groups from speaking out at all … More than half of many 30-second television messages would be filled with compelled disclosures.”
In addition, the Schumer bill stifles targeted political speech. The conservative Center for Competitive Politics reported that the Schumer bill “contains outright prohibitions on the speech of government contractors and companies with international investors. No prohibitions exist for similarly situated labor unions.”
What the Dems call DISCLOSE actually means rigging the system in their favor. They’ve been shameless in their zeal to pass this law in time to tilt the November elections. In order to buy the support of powerful special interest groups, both the House and Senate bill have exempted powerful interest groups from the disclosure requirements. There’s actually a loophole for the National Rifle Association and other powerful lobbies.
“They haven’t even passed a budget yet,” noted Center for Competitive Politics spokesman Jeff Patch.
But Reid has his priorities — and losing floor votes seems to be the top one.
In July, Schumer’s bill failed to garner the 60 votes needed to bring it to a floor vote. But Reid apparently doesn’t mind losing floor votes. To him, losing can be lovelier the second time around.
Debra J. Saunders is a San Francisco Chronicle columnist. Her e-mail address is email@example.com.