Senate moves forward with amendment to the Constitution on elections

The Senate on Monday advanced a constitutional amendment meant to reverse two recent Supreme Court decisions on campaign spending.

Republicans are likely to vote against the amendment when it comes up for a final vote, but, by allowing it to proceed, ensured it would tie up the Senate for most of the week.

More than 20 Republicans joined Democrats in the 79-18 vote advancing the amendment, well over the 60 votes that were needed.

{mosads}The amendment is almost certain to fail, as it would need to win two-thirds support to pass the Senate, and then would still need to move through the House and be ratified by two-thirds of the states.

“We should have debate on this important amendment,” Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said before voting for cloture. “The majority should be made to answer why they want to silence critics.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he would gladly debate the issue for as long as Republicans require because the amendment is necessary to keep “dark money” out of politics.

“You’re either for campaign spending reform or not,” Reid said ahead of the vote. “This constitutional amendment is what we need to bring sanity back to elections and restore Americans’ confidence in our democracy.”

Monday’s vote means Democrats will have less time to hold other political votes during the two-week session before adjourning for the midterm elections. Reid has said he also wants to hold votes on Democrats’ political priorities, such as equal pay for women and refinancing student loan rates.  

Reid has threatened to keep senators in town over the weekend in order to accomplish all of his legislative goals. But the Senate only has two weeks to pass a short-term continuing resolution (CR) to keep the government funded after Sept. 30 and reauthorize the Export-Import Bank. 

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. 

Democratic political groups, such as the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC), pushed hard for a vote, saying the issue motivates Democrats to go out to the polls.

Citizens United gives corporate special interests the ability to spend unlimited amounts of money in our elections,” said Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), who is up for reelection this November. “It’s wrong, and I’ve been fighting it since the day the Supreme Court announced its egregious decision.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said the vote was a political stunt by Democrats ahead of the midterm elections. McConnell, and most of Senate GOP leadership, voted for the cloture motion.

“It’s painfully clear the majority leader’s priorities have to do with Nov. 4,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said. “So, it’s all politics all the time, no matter what.”

The amendment from Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) would authorize Congress and the states to regulate and limit fundraising and spending on federal candidates.

It would also prohibit the Supreme Court from reversing any future campaign finance legislation passed by Congress.

Tags Chuck Grassley Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission Harry Reid
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