Responding to action in the House, Senate Democrats unveiled their own version of a sweeping election and ethics reform bill Wednesday — one that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has vowed never to bring to a vote.
Dubbed, like the House bill, the For the People Act, the Senate legislation includes a vast suite of proposals — including measures meant to expand voting, provisions aimed at unmasking and diluting the power of moneyed interests, new ethical strictures for federal officials and a new public financing system for congressional campaigns.
The bill, according to its lead author, Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.), has the support of all 47 senators in the Democratic caucus. The House bill passed 234 to 193 this month with unanimous Democratic support, meaning every congressional Democrat is on record in support of the bill.
“Today we are seizing their momentum and the momentum of the American people,” Udall said at a news conference Wednesday. “Now the ball is in Senator McConnell’s court. . . . This should not be about Democrats versus Republicans, this is about people versus special interests.”
That is not the view of McConnell (R-Ky.) and other Republicans, who have called the bill a Democratic “power grab” and vowed to resist its advance.
“More than anything else, Washington Democrats want a tighter grip on political debate and the operation of elections, nationwide,” McConnell said when the House bill passed.
The Senate bill unveiled Wednesday is mostly identical to the House bill, also known as H.R. 1, but it expands the public financing mechanism to include Senate campaigns and it goes further to require divestment, not just disclosure, of financial conflicts by presidents and vice presidents.
The broad Democratic support for the bill now includes several 2020 presidential candidates serving in the Senate. One of them, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), attended Wednesday’s rollout.
Acknowledging the Republican blockade, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said its good politics for Democrats to continue pushing the bill.
“We’re the minority, but we’re putting them on the defensive,” he said. “Where do they stand? Where do they stand on dark money cascading into the system? Where do they stand on making it easier, not harder, for people to exercise their right to vote? Where do they stand on cleaning up the swamp? . . . If you don’t agree with us, what’s your answer? They don’t have one.”