By Tony Perkins
Senator Chuck Schumer is a lot of things — but James Madison, he is not. Don’t tell that to the New York Democrat, who, along with Sen. Mark Udall (D-N.M.), thinks he understands freedom better than the author of America’s Bill of Rights. Two hundred twenty-three years after the First Amendment went into effect, Senate liberals are trying to put an expiration date on political speech. While most Americans were firing up their grills last weekend, Sen. Udall was lighting a match under Senate Democrats to get a vote on his Joint Resolution 19. And if it’s successful, the National Archives will need more than bomb-proofing to protect America’s founding documents.
Four years after the Supreme Court struck down restrictive campaign finance laws, the Left is still smarting. A summer away from a reelection bloodbath, Democrats know they can’t hide from their records — but they can try to silence the people talking about them. That’s the aim of S.R. 19, which would essentially strip political speech out of the First Amendment and put it in a separate legislative box where Congress (the targets of that speech) can regulate it.
“The real guarantee,” explains the Wall Street Journal editors, “would be political advantage for all incumbents, since it’s the sitting lawmakers who really benefit from any law limiting contributions to candidates or on their behalf.” Of course, even the Founding Fathers understood the temptations of putting elected officials in charge of these basic freedoms, which is why they slipped in this key phrase: “Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech…”
Now, Congress — with the help of lawless Democrats — seeks to do exactly that, hoping to keep their flimsy grip on the Senate majority. Under Udall’s bill, Congress would have the “power to regulate the raising and spending of money” on campaigns and candidates, undermining voters and minimizing the influence of their opponents. Super PACs, which have virtually no limitations for election spending, are the Left’s biggest bulls-eye, followed by other outside groups.
Interestingly enough, the measure goes out of its way to protect the freedom of the press (which is no big surprise, considering whose side they’re on). But, as the WSJ points out, “Why should [liberal] Warren Buffett’s company enjoy free speech rights because he owns a handful of newspapers along with insurance companies, while Jeffrey Immelt’s is muzzled because GE makes jet turbines?” Democrats insist the debate is about accountability — when in reality, it’s one of the most transparent plays for job security Harry Reid’s Senate has ever attempted.
And a difficult one at that. Amending the Constitution requires a two-thirds majority in both chambers and the approval of three-quarters of U.S. states. Even so, Majority Leader Reid isn’t giving up any time soon. The Democrats’ top dog already promised a string of votes on the measure after its first Judicial Committee hearing next Tuesday. Even after the Left lost its bid to change the IRS rules on lobbying groups, the open season on conservatives continues. No longer content to just ignore the law, the President’s party is ready to blow holes in the Bill of Rights. But if the public outcry is any indication, they’ve picked the wrong fight.
Tony Perkins is president of the Washington, D.C.-based Family Research Council. He is a former member of the Louisiana legislature where he served for eight years, and he is recognized as a legislative pioneer for authoring measures like the nation’s first Covenant Marriage law.
(Via FRC’s Washington Update. Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.)
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