The bill was introduced by Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.) in January. It passed in the House of Representatives by a vote of 234–193 in March. The bill has been repeatedly blocked by Senate Republicans since then.
One of the bill’s many provisions attempts to increase voter participation by making Election Day a federal holiday. Another provision is aimed at eliminating so-called “dark money” from campaign funds by requiring that super PACs and other organizations disclose the identity of their donors.
Merkley claimed that the failure to pass the bill was symptomatic of a “corrupt system” and that the senate was controlled by “powerful special interests.” After blocking the bill, Blunt countered that the bill represents an overreach of power that would allow the federal government to take control away from states.
“Apparently the powerful special interests that my friend Mr. Merkley talked about are the state governments,” said Blunt.
One of the bill’s major hurdles for Republicans is an ethics provision that would require candidates for president and vice president to disclose the last 10 years of their income tax returns. President Donald Trump has repeatedly refused to disclose his tax returns, and is currently embroiled in a legal fight to keep the information secret.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has been consistent in his desire to block the bill from making it through the chamber, calling the bill a “one-sided power grab” that represents the “far left’s entire Christmas wish list where our nation’s political process is concerned.” Critics and political opponents of McConnell’s Republican-controlled senate were quick to condemn the latest action.
“For months, Senator McConnell has refused to take up this bill. Campaign finance reform, gerrymandering, the right to vote, ethics in government, and foreign interference in our elections are all part of this timely and badly needed package of reforms,” said People For the American Way Executive Vice President for Policy and Program Marge Baker in a statement. “By blocking a motion by Senate Democrats to bring it to the floor, Mitch McConnell has signaled yet again that his true allegiances lie elsewhere, not with the American people.”