Legislative Updates: 113th Congress
Rep. Ted Deutch and Senator Bernie Sanders Submit Testimony to Judiciary Committee Hearing on Amending the Constitution
Congressman Ted Deutch (FL-21) and Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) have submitted written testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee for its hearing today, “Examining a Constitutional Amendment to Restore Democracy to the American People.” Last year, Congressman Deutch and Senator Sanders co-introduced the Democracy is for People Amendment, a proposed constitutional amendment that would overturn the Supreme Court's 2010 decision in Citizens United v. FEC, immediately ban corporate spending in elections, and restore constitutional legitimacy to campaign finance reforms that limit the influence of private wealth in public elections. The Democracy is for People Amendment, which currently has 74 cosponsors in the House of Representatives, also overturns the recent McCutcheon v. FEC ruling that gives wealthy donors the right to buy unlimited influence in every federal election cycle. Yesterday, Congressman Deutch more than 60 House Democrats on a letter commending Senator Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy for putting a constitutional amendment on the Senate Judiciary Committee's agenda. Information about that letter is here.
Also testifying in today's hearing was Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who argued that a constitutional amendment to get big money out of politics would allow Congress to re-write the rules to benefit themselves as incumbents. What Senator McConnell failed to acknowledge is that recent Supreme Court decisions like Citizens United v. FEC and McCutcheon v. FEC have given wealthy donors and special interests the right to determine the winners and losers of our elections, rather than ordinary voters.
Senator McConnell's statements also starkly contrast with his own remarks in support of a constitutional amendment that he proposed back in 1987, when he said, “I don’t like [independent expenditures], and frankly, I would support a constitutional amendment to restrict those.” Senator McConnell’s proposal in the 100th Congress looks very similar to many of the proposals to amend the Constitution that are up for debate today. If Senator McConnell's amendment would have passed in 1987, it is likely that the Supreme Court not have been able to issue such disastrous decisions for our democracy, as in Citizens United and related cases. Unfortunately, these Supreme Court decisions have made the problem of independent expenditures worse, with year-round fund raising, outside groups saturating our airwaves with malicious political ads, and $7 billion election cycles all serving as examples of how our current campaign finance regulations leaves American democracy exposed to the undue influence of the wealthiest few.
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