Sen. Judiciary Committee Endorses Amendment to Abridge Free Speech

By:  Jack Kenny
Sen. Judiciary Committee Endorses Amendment to Abridge Free Speech

A proposed constitutional amendment to abridge the freedom of speech received the endorsement of the Senate Judiciary Committee by a 10-8 vote Thursday in an effort to overturn U.S. Supreme Court decisions in Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission and McCutcheon v. FEC.

The 2010 Citizens United ruling rejected on First Amendment grounds restrictions in the McCain-Feingold Campaign Reform Act of 2002 on spending for political advertising. In this year's McCutcheon decision, the high court ruled that limits on how much a donor may contribute in aggregate to candidates for federal office, political parties, and political action committees are also violations of the First Amendment. Both decisions were by 5-4 votes of the justices, with the more conservative Republican appointees voting to strike down the restrictions and the liberal justices, appointed by Democratic presidents, voting to uphold them. Similarly, Thursday's Judiciary Committee vote was strictly along party lines, with all 10 of the committee's Democrats voting for the amendment and all eight of its Republican members voting against.

The Democrats voting for the proposed amendment were Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (Vermont), Dianne Feinstein (California), Charles Schumer (New York), Dick Durbin (Illinois), Sheldon Whitehead (Rhode Island), Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken (Minnesota), Christopher Coons (Delaware), Richard Blumenthal (Minnesota), and Mazie Hirono (Hawaii). Republicans voting against it were Charles Grassley (Iowa), Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee (Utah); Ted Cruz and John Cornyn (Texas), Lindsey Graham (South Carolina), Jeff Sessions (Alabama), and Jeff Flake (Arizona).  

The amendment, as  proposed in Senate Joint Resolution 19, says in Section 1:

Congress shall have power to regulate the raising and spending of money and in-kind equivalents with respect to federal elections, including through setting limits on

1) the amount of contributions to candidates for nomination for election to, or for election to, Federal office; and

(2) the amount of funds that may be spent by, in support of, or in opposition to such candidates.

Section 2 gives the same power to the States. And just as McCain-Feingold exempted media corporations from federal regulation, S.J. Res. 19 states in Section 3: "Nothing in this article shall be construed to grant Congress the power to abridge the freedom of the press."

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