Senate Republicans pumped their muscle in the upper chamber today by managing to block a constitutional amendment on campaign spending. The purpose of the amendment would have reversed the Supreme Court’s Citizen’s United Ruling. Democrats needed 60 votes to conclude debate on the measure, but failed to do so. In addition, a constitutional amendment needs 67 votes to pass the Senate. The measure failed 54-42 with members voting along party lines.
Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the amendment would have altered the Bill of Rights and prevented free speech.
“It should worry everyone that there are 54 Senators who think that less free speech is better. Our government is stronger when more citizens participate in the electoral process. That includes exercising the right of political free speech and exercising the right to vote. Free speech creates a marketplace of ideas and fosters participatory democracy, allowing an educated citizenry to cast votes to elect its leaders,” Grassley said in a statement.
According to Grassley’s press office, the “amendment proposed by Senate Democrats would limit the unfiltered ability of the electorate to advocate, influence, persuade, denounce, criticize and challenge those running for public office. The amendment would abridge the fundamental right of free speech by enabling the government to limit funds contributed to candidates and restrict spending by individuals or groups to express political views to the public during an election.”
Republicans like Grassley say the proposed amendment would have protected incumbents blocked the ability of Americans to criticize politicians and challenge government policy as well as “influence their neighbor’s views on politics and policy upon penalty of imprisonment. Members of Congress could decide what citizens may or may not say leading up to an election.”
The amendment, proposed by Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM), would have permitted the federal government and the states to regulate and limit fundraising and spending on federal candidates. Sen Ted Cruz (R – TX) blasted the amendment saying Saturday Night Live’s Lorne Michaels would be jailed under the amendment’s regulations.
“Congress would have the power to make it a criminal offense; Lorne Michaels could be put in jail under this amendment for making fun of any politician. That is extraordinary. It is breathtaking, and it is dangerous,” the Texas Republican said on the Senate floor on Tuesday.
“Citizens United was one of the worst decisions in the history of the Supreme Court,” Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) said floor Tuesday. “It was a disaster.”
The 2010 Citizens United decision struck down restrictions banning corporations and unions from spending money from their general treasury funds to support or oppose candidates. The court’s McCutcheon decision struck down aggregate limits on individual contributions to candidates.