Tuesday's Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow Congress to regulate campaign finance triggered high emotions from supporters and opponents alike.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), was greeted with snickers, sighs, and eye rolls from the audience as he argued that S.J. Res. 19, the proposed amendment, would repeal the First Amendment, muzzle every American, and effectively make America not America anymore. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), accused amendment opponents of substituting "logic for rhetoric" and questioned whether Cruz's professed devotion to the First Amendment's free speech guarantee extends to obscenity, including child pornography.
Amid such extremes, it's reasonable for the rest of us to ask: "What is this amendment really going to do?" All hyperbole aside, S.J. Res 19 is likely to have three main consequences. It would allow Congress to "regulate the raising and spending of money" in federal elections, reverse the Supreme Court's current trend toward total deregulation of campaign finance, and allow Congress to actually legislate.
Americans are more than ready for action on this issue. Eighty percent of the public opposes the high Court's ruling in Citizens United, which held that Congress is constitutionally barred from restricting "independent" campaign expenditures. And a June 2013 Gallup poll found that at least 80 percent of Americans favor campaign fundraising and spending limits.
Furthermore, whatever is responsible for Congress' current trend toward being the least productive body ever -- partisan gridlock, ideological divides, complacency, or whatever -- there's no arguing that having to raise $2,315 every day as member of the House or $14,315 every day as a senator (the average raised by members of each house during the 2012 cycle) is not conducive to governing. With a frustrated public and a stagnant Congress, it's time for something to be done; S.J. Res 19 may not be a silver bullet or perfectly written, but it all about giving government back to the people and governance back to our representatives.
Office: Common Cause National
Issues: Money in Politics
Tags: Citizens United