The Senate is scheduled to hold a procedural vote next week on amending the Constitution to let Congress regulate campaign spending.
Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) proposed a resolution to amend the Constitution in the wake of two recent Supreme Court decisions that Democrats opposed.
One was Citizens United vs. the Federal Election Commission, which said the government cannot impose limits on corporate spending on politics-related communications. The other was McCutcheon vs. FEC, which terminated aggregate limits on what people can contribute as individuals.
While the Supreme Court said its Citizens United ruling was an attempt to restore free speech rights under the First Amendment, Democrats generally opposed the ruling as one that would allow companies to spend more money on “electioneering communications” that will dilute the power of individual voters.
As a result, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) several weeks ago set up a procedural vote Monday on Udall’s resolution, which would create a new amendment to the Constitution that lets Congress regulate political spending. An email from Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin’s office on Friday confirmed the vote is still on for Monday evening.
The procedural vote would technically end debate on a motion to proceed to Udall’s resolution. It’s not expected to succeed, as a super-majority will be needed and most if not all Republicans are expected to oppose it.
Still, the vote will give Senate Democrats one last chance to make their case in favor of regulating corporate spending. Reid has been a key supporter of the language, and has warned for several months that people like the Koch brothers have used the Citizens United ruling to tilt the playing field in favor of Republicans.
Another supporter is Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), who has said an amendment to the Constitution is needed to fix the Supreme Court’s “flawed” decisions.
But what Democrats see as a flaw, many Republicans see as the proper interpretation of the First Amendment. When the Judiciary Committee, led by Leahy, approved Udall’s language, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) tweeted, “Senate Democrats just voted against the text of the First Amendment.”
The latest version of Udall’s proposed amendment, which was rewritten by Leahy’s committee, reads:
“Section 1. To advance democratic self-government and political equality, and to protect the integrity of government and the electoral process, Congress and the States may regulate and set reasonable limits on the raising and spending of money by candidates and others to influence elections.”
“Section 2. Congress and the States shall have power to implement and enforce this article by appropriate legislation, and may distinguish between natural persons and corporations or other artificial entities created by law, including by prohibiting such entities from spending money to influence elections.”
“Section 3. Nothing in this article shall be construed to grant Congress or the States the power to abridge the freedom of the press.”