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UPDATE: Senate Democrats Want Constitutional Limit on First Amendment

UPDATE: The push by Senate Democrats to advance a Constitutional Amendment to limit the First Amendment took another step this week. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), warning of a “hostile takeover” of America’s democracy by billionaires, not only voiced his backing for the Constitutional change, but also indicated that it will come before the Senate Judiciary Committee on June 3, and will advance to the full Senate for a vote. He stated, “Let’s keep our elections from becoming speculative ventures for the wealthy.” 

In response, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) 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.” He continued, “Washington Democrats have shown again and again how determined they are to shut down the voices of anyone who disagrees with them, whether it’s targeting groups through the IRS or looking over the shoulders of reporters at local newspapers and on news radio.”

(LAST WEEK’S REPORT)

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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, 38 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 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 16, 2014

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