To the Constitution's 27 amendments, Senate Democrats would like to add a 28th.
The Senate Judiciary Committee last week approved a resolution to amend the Constitution by empowering Congress to regulate the amount of money that could be raised or spent in federal election campaigns, and granting state governments the same authority in state elections.
The amendment — introduced by New Mexico Senator Tom Udall and co-sponsored by most of his Democratic colleagues, including Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey of Massachusetts — is intended to roll back not only the Supreme Court's 2010 ruling in Citizens United v. FEC, but also its landmark decision in Buckley v. Valeo, which affirmed nearly 40 years ago that political spending was expression protected by the First Amendment from arbitrary government limits.
The proposed amendment will almost certainly fail on the Senate floor, where it doesn't have the two-thirds support needed for passage. In the Republican-controlled House, where Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi yesterday introduced a companion resolution, opposition is even steeper.
For anyone who believes in a vigorous marketplace of ideas and thinks more political speech is better than less, the likely defeat of Udall's amendment is reassuring. Count me among those who would hate to see liberties guaranteed by the First Amendment stripped of their protection through new constitutional language. Yet even those of us who reject the notion that the Bill of Rights needs fixing should take a moment to applaud Udall and his allies for pursuing their goal the right way: by undertaking the challenge of trying to pass an amendment.
Udall's amendment isn't the only suggested constitutional fix being bruited about. Senator Jon Tester of Montana and Representative Jim McGovern of Massachusetts are pushing a "People's Rights Amendment" that would limit constitutional rights to "natural persons," thereby erasing the corporate personhood rights that were key to the holding in Citizens United and, more recently, Burwell v. Hobby Lobby. Markey backs this amendment too; on the day of the Hobby Lobby ruling he announced his support for Tester's Senate version.
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