NRB could not be silent this week in the face of a serious threat to the Bill of Rights being considered by the U.S. Senate. As expected, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) called up for a vote a proposed amendment to the United States Constitution that would limit First Amendment freedom. In response, NRB President & CEO Dr. Jerry A. Johnson declared, “Amending the U.S. Constitution is a serious matter. I am concerned that, in this pre-election political theater, many Senate Democrats have signed their names to a perilous proposal that could allow the government to elevate or suppress voices at will.”
NRB has been warning that this Constitutional Amendment (S.J.Res.19) includes a section reiterating the freedom of the press, but is silent on the other First Amendment liberties – namely, religion, speech, assembly, and petition. In a letter to the Chairman and to the Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this summer, Dr. Johnson stated, “In essence, this would establish the press as a super-class of speaker (without defining what the press is), but could well leave expression by the rest of Americans at the mercy of the federal government.”
Sadly, all members of the Senate Democrat caucus supported advancing this legislation, which was born out of their frustration with the U.S. Supreme Court’s opinions on campaign finance and political speech, specifically the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision in 2010 and the McCutcheon v. FEC decision earlier this year.
Senate Majority Leader Reid contended this week, “This constitutional amendment… is about restoring freedom of speech to all Americans; and telling the rest of the world that our government is not for sale.” However, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) wrote in Politico, “The proposal they want to consider would empower incumbent politicians to write the rules on who gets to speak and who doesn’t. And while no one likes to be criticized, the way for Senate Democrats to avoid it is to make better arguments, or even better, to come up with better ideas — not shut up their constituents.”
S.J.Res.19 was halted from further consideration by a procedural vote on Thursday.
By Aaron Mercer, Vice President of Government Relations
Published: September 12, 2014