WASHINGTON (CN) – Senate Republicans blocked a campaign finance reform bill Tuesday that would require corporate sponsors of political campaigns to identify themselves in campaign ads.
The Senate voted 57 to 41 in favor of bringing the bill to the floor for debate, three votes short of the 60 votes needed to move forward with the bill. All Republicans voted against the motion.
The bill, called the Disclose Act, would require corporate interests to reveal their identities in campaign ads that they sponsor.
The bill would also prohibit foreign companies from contributing to U.S. elections, ban companies that received bailout funds from donating that money to a political candidate, and bar government contractors from contributing to campaigns.
The Disclose Act was the Democrats’ response to the Supreme Court ruling earlier this year in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission that allows unlimited corporate spending in U.S. elections.
“The Senate is not reversing or circumventing the court’s ruling,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said before the vote. “We’re only bringing back transparency.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said the bill was an assault on free speech.
“I went back and read the First Amendment for evidence that only large, entrenched and wealthy special interests get the freedom of speech – I couldn’t find it,” McConnell said. “This is a bill to shield themselves from average Americans exercising their First Amendment rights to freedom of speech.”
Republicans accused Democrats of crafting the bill to ensure that Democratic-leaning special interest groups had a voice in the fall elections. Democrats denied the attack.
“This is all about secrecy, not free speech,” said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., the bill’s sponsor. “The average guy has no opportunity to put on these ads. All we’re saying is, if you’re going to attack us, put your name on the ad.”
President Obama held a news conference at the White House on Monday to call for Republican support on the bill, saying it would “prevent special interests from gaining more clout.”
“You’d think that making these reforms would be a matter of common sense,” Obama said.
“I have a very hard time understanding how we did not get one Republican vote on this issue,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., after the vote. The other Independent in the Senate, Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, was absent for voting.
“This fight will continue,” Schumer promised.