Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Thursday said the Senate would vote in the coming weeks on legislation for a constitutional amendment to give Congress the power to regulate spending levels in federal campaigns.
Reid said Democrats are pushing for the vote to combat what he said is an effort by billionaires Charles and David Koch to “buy” the U.S. Senate this year. He said that effort is allowed in light of Supreme Court decision that prevents limitations on political spending, and said Congress must act to save democracy from the rich.
“It’s unacceptable that the recent Supreme Court decisions have taken power away from the American voter, instead giving it to a select few of mega-billionaires,” Reid said on the Senate floor.
Reid said the vote would be held shortly on a proposed constitutional amendment from Sens. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), S.J.Res. 19.
“Soon, Chairman [Pat] Leahy in the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on Sen. Udall and Bennet’s constitutional amendment,” Reid said. “The Senate will vote on that legislation.”
Later on Thursday, Leahy announced a June 3 hearing to discuss Udall’s proposed constitutional amendment.
Specifically, the resolution would let Congress regulate the way money is raised and spent in federal campaigns, and let states do the same in statewide campaigns. It would also let Congress regulate spending on political action committees.
Reid has used the Senate floor to berate the Koch brothers for the last few months, at a time when many believe Republicans could win back the upper chamber in the November midterm elections. On Thursday, he noted press reports detailing a memo from the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity, which was titled “Confidential Investor Update.”
Reid said it was “fitting” that the memo was called an investor update, since the Kochs are looking to buy the Senate for Republicans.
“They absolutely expect monetary returns on their investments in buying America,” he said.
He also criticized the Supreme Court’s finding that spending money on campaigns is equivalent to free speech, and therefore is not something the government can regulate. Reid said if that’s true, that’s the same as saying poor people have less speech than the rich.
“If this unprecedented spending is free speech, where does that leave our middle class constituents, the poor? It leaves them out in the cold,” he said. “There should be no million-dollar entry fee to participation in our democracy.”