Senate Democrats are ramping up efforts for a proposed constitutional amendment aimed at reversing recent Supreme Court decisions that loosened campaign finance restrictions.
With most senators already departed for their five-week summer break, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., quietly filed a motion Friday afternoon for a Sept. 8 procedural vote on the proposal.
The amendment essentially would reverse two Supreme Court decision; McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, which in April struck down the overall limits that wealthy donors can contribute to political campaigns, and 2010’s Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which canceled most limits on corporate and union spending in elections.
Democrats have criticized both decisions, saying that removing the caps leads to big-money donors gaining even more influence over campaigns and elections than they already have, a scenario they say is unfair, stifles the political voice of average Americans and leads to corruption.
The measure, sponsored by Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., would let state governments and Congress regulate and limit the raising and spending of money for federal political campaigns. The amendment also would grant Congress and states the authority to regulate and limit independent expenditures, such as those from so-called super PACs.
Republicans have hailed both Supreme Court rulings as a victory for anti-regulation conservatives who saw the caps as an egregious restriction on free speech rights.
“Once again, Washington Democrats have forgotten that the First Amendment is meant to empower the people, not the government, and to prevent politicians from shutting down the voices of those who disagree with them,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Friday.
McConnell also said Reid's Friday move showcased the Democrats' warped priorities.
“At a moment of multiple domestic and international crises it is nothing short of astonishing that the Democrats who control the U.S. Senate would prioritize shutting down the voices of their critics ahead of resolving the real challenges we face,” the Kentuckian said.
The proposal is an extreme long shot, as constitutional amendments must pass by two-thirds majorities in both chambers of Congress and be ratified by three-quarters of the states. Democrats control only 55 of the Senate’s 100 seats, while Republicans run the House.
But Democrats see the issue as a political winner heading into November's congressional elections and show no signs of backing down.
“Each time we have amended the Constitution, it shaped the rights and liberties that we enjoy as Americans,” Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, said before voting for the amendment in the Senate Judiciary Committee in July. “In some of the most important points of our democracy’s history, Congress and the states have amended the Constitution because the Supreme Court simply got the Constitution wrong. Dead wrong.”