Senate to Vote on Bill of Rights Limitation in September

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has made clear that, during the Senate’s brief pre-election legislative session in mid-September, not only would he like to take another shot at undermining the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, but he also intends to call up for a vote an amendment to the Unites States Constitution that could have serious consequences for all the freedoms of the First Amendment.

At issue in the latter case 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 earlier this year. Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) last summer proposed a constitutional amendment (S.J.Res.19) to overrule these cases, and support for the amendment has grown to 49 Senators (none are Republican).

Dr. Jerry A. Johnson, President & CEO of NRB, has called this proposal “convoluted” and “unacceptable,” and warned it would be “detrimental to liberty and equality, preparing the way for the government to prefer one voice over another – or to suppress one voice under another.” In a letter to the Chairman and to the Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Dr. Johnson particularly highlighted that this constitutional amendment includes a section reiterating the freedom of the press, but is silent on the other First Amendment liberties – namely, religion, speech, assembly, and petitioning the government. Dr. Johnson noted, “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. “

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has declared this attempt to be “an all-out assault on the right to free speech” and “a clear sign of just how desperate elected Washington Democrats have become in their quest to hold onto power.”

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

By Aaron Mercer, Vice President of Government Relations

Published: August 1, 2014