All 47 Democratic senators, including the six running for president, signed on to legislation introduced today that mirrors the campaign finance, election administration and ethics overhaul passed by the House this month.
Their unanimity has no utilitarian effect, because Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has made clear he'll never put the bill to a vote and not one of his fellow Republicans (let alone the 13 necessary) has even hinted at breaking ranks to advance the bill over his opposition.
But the Democrats who announced the bill made clear that, at least until the next election, they are more content to make a political point than to make a new law.
"This is the bill I think we should use as our talking points across the country when people are running for president or running for Congress," said Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, the only one of the presidential aspirants to attend the news conference unveiling the bill. "This is the whole collection of what we need to do, from taking the dark money out to making it easier to vote."
The measure's principal sponsor, Tom Udall of New Mexico, conceded that his options for advancing his cause were limited before he retires at the end of next year. At best, he said, he might be able to put all senators on record by securing a vote on an amendment that would attach the bill to the annual budget resolution, a purely symbolic move because the budget measure does not have the force of law.
Udall's office described his measure as "a near identical copy" of HR 1, the measure the House passed three weeks ago on a party line vote of 234-193. Among the bill's most prominent features are the re-enfranchisement of felons after their release from prison, the lowering of barriers to voting across the country, the creation of public matching funds for candidates who raised money from others in small donations, a tougher code of ethics for the executive branch and a mandate that all states turn their congressional mapmaking over to nonpartisan commissions.
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