Senate Republicans on Thursday blocked a constitutional amendment meant to reverse two recent Supreme Court decisions on campaign spending.
Senate Democrats needed 60 votes to end debate on the measure, but fell short in the 54-42 party-line vote.
Senators have a week to pass a short-term continuing resolution (CR) to keep the government funded after Sept. 30 and reauthorize the Export-Import Bank before they recess for midterm election campaigning.
The amendment was certain to fail at some point. It would have needed to win two-thirds support to pass the Senate, and then would still have needed to move through the House and be ratified by two-thirds of the states.
Republicans said the Senate vote was a political stunt by Democrats ahead of the midterm elections. Democrats up for reelection are expected to use this vote on the campaign trail.
“I have to say it’s a little disconcerting to see the Democrat-led Senate focusing on things like reducing free speech protections for the American people,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellOvernight Finance: Inside Trump's tax plan | White House mulls order pulling out of NAFTA | New fight over Dodd-Frank begins Dem rep: Trump's tax plan as believable as 'magic, unicorns or Batman' GOP leaders, top tax writers: Trump principles will be 'critical guideposts' MORE (R-Ky.) said Thursday. “This is what they chose to make their top legislative priority this week? Taking an eraser to the First Amendment.”
Republicans have offered support for the Supreme Court’s decisions in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission and McCutcheon v. FEC. They say campaign spending is a form of free speech and that the decisions removing certain limits on spending protected First Amendment rights.
The 2010 Citizens United ruling struck down restrictions that had barred corporations and unions from spending money from their general treasury funds to support or oppose candidates. In McCutcheon, the court struck aggregate limits on individual contributions to candidates.
Democrats argued the Supreme Court decision has allowed billionaires to flood the campaign spending system with “dark money” in order to buy election results.
The amendment from Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) would have authorized Congress and the states to regulate and limit fundraising and spending on federal candidates.
It also would have prohibited the Supreme Court from reversing any future campaign finance legislation passed by Congress.