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Campaign-Finance Measure May Come to Vote in U.S. Senate

Senate Democrats are preparing votes as soon as next month on a proposed constitutional amendment that would empower Congress to reverse a 2010 Supreme Court decision and restore limits on corporate campaign spending.

“The flood of special-interest money in our American democracy is one of the greatest threats our system of government has ever faced,” Majority Leader Harry Reid said on the Senate floor today.

Democratic Senators Tom Udall of New Mexico and Michael Bennet of Colorado first proposed a constitutional amendment in 2011 and reintroduced it in 2013. The Senate Judiciary Committee will vote on S.J.Res. 19 as early as next month, according to a Senate Democratic leadership aide.

In 2010, the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision in the Citizens United case removed limits on independent corporate and labor union spending on campaigns. The ruling reversed decades of decisions and campaign finance laws aimed at reducing corporate money in campaigns.

Proposed constitutional amendments require adoption by a two-thirds majority of the Senate and House of Representatives, followed by ratification by three-quarters of the states.

A Judiciary Committee hearing on the proposal is scheduled for June 3. A committee vote hasn’t been set.

The goal is floor action in July, said the aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity because plans haven’t been completed.

In his floor speech, Reid singled out Charles and David Koch, the billionaire brothers who run Wichita, Kansas-based Koch Industries Inc., saying, “Let’s keep our elections from becoming speculative ventures for the wealthy, put a stop to the hostile takeover of our democratic system by a couple of billionaire oil barons.”

After Reid made his remarks, Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell issued a statement that called the proposed amendment “an all-out assault on our free speech.”

“It’s also a clear sign of just how desperate elected Washington Democrats have become in their quest to hold onto power,” he said.

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