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DISCLOSE Act, Like All Legislation Known to Man, Up to Scott Brown

Scott Brown, last seen not committing to vote for the financial reform bill, last seen not voting to extend unemployment, last seen not interested in a climate bill or an immigration bill, apparently holds the key to the DISCLOSE Act, according to Senate Democrats, who plan to try to pass the campaign finance law in the chamber in July.

The commitment to bring to the floor the chamber’s version of the DISCLOSE Act, which passed the House prior to the July 4th recess, foreshadows yet another high-stakes legislative showdown between Democratic leadership and a host of moderate Republicans. And it places, once again, Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) in the role of legislative kingpin.

As things stand now, vote counters in the party acknowledged that they don’t have firm commitments from 60 Senators to pass the legislation — which would force groups that spend on the election to make unprecedented levels of disclosure about their funding. The primary target remains Brown even though the Massachusetts Republican has insisted that it would be “inappropriate” to consider the bill before the November elections.

“It is fair to say that the target for vote number 60 is Scott Brown,” another senior Democratic aide told the Huffington Post. He is ‘the make or break vote on this.’ Just like you had in the House, a crucial element to the bill getting over the finish line is having the support of a Republican willing to buck the rest of his party in the form of [Rep.] Mike Castle. The bill will need a similar reformer in the Senate.”

This is funny because when I talked with Fred Wertheimer and Chris Van Hollen about this bill, and specifically asked them how they plan to pass it in the Senate, Brown’s name never came up. They mentioned Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, which would provide the margin of victory if the Democratic caucus stayed united on a cloture vote. So the focus on Brown suggests that they don’t have the caucus united. Given that NRA exemption and the harsh reactions to it from Dianne Feinstein and Frank Lautenberg, that could well be.

So once again, northeastern Republicans rule the political world. And this legislation will be placed in the hands of someone who really doesn’t want to pass it, or who at least wants to delay its effect until after the 2010 elections. That defeats the entire purpose of the bill.

This ought to be amusing…

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David Dayen

David Dayen