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Senate Democrats Want Constitutional Limit on First Amendment

U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Vice Chair of the Senate Democratic Conference, has called for a vote on an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would serve as a limitation on the First Amendment.  “The First Amendment is sacred, but… the First Amendment is not absolute. By making it absolute, you actually make it less sacred to most Americans. We have to bring some balance to our political system,” he declared during a hearing last week.

At issue is Democrats’ 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 last month. Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) last summer introduced a bill (S.J.Res.19) that would insert in the Constitution, “To advance the fundamental principle of political equality for all, and to protect the integrity of the legislative and electoral processes, Congress shall have power to regulate the raising and spending of money and in-kind equivalents with respect to Federal elections…”  Thus far, 39 Senate Democrats, including Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), have co-sponsored this bill.

In a scathing Op-Ed titled “Rewriting the First Amendment,” the Wall Street Journal stated, “The larger story here is how far the American left is willing to go to cripple their political opponents. They're even willing to write a giant loophole into America's founding charter so Congress can limit political speech.” 

Amendments to the U.S. Constitution require the 2/3 support in both the House and the Senate, and then ratification by 3/4 of the States.

  • Watch this hearing, featuring former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens.
  • Find the full text of Senator Tom Udall’s proposed constitutional amendment.

By Aaron Mercer, Vice President of Government Relations

Published: May 9, 2014

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