Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
July 28, 2014

McConnell, Reid Spar Over Campaign Financing

reid mcconnell 004 060314 445x278 McConnell, Reid Spar Over Campaign Financing

McConnell, left, and Reid testify during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on “Examining a Constitutional Amendment to Restore Democracy to the American People,” focusing on campaign finance. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The Senate’s Majority Leader, Harry Reid, and its GOP leader, Mitch McConnell, delivered sharply clashing views of the campaign finance system Tuesday, at a Senate hearing on a proposed constitutional amendment to allow Congress to restrict political money.

“I am here because the flood of dark money into our nation’s political system poses the greatest threat to our democracy that I have witnessed during my tenure in public service,” Reid said during testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee. “The decisions by the Supreme Court have left the American people with a status quo in which one side’s billionaires are pitted against the other side’s billionaires.”

McConnell, a staunch and longtime opponent of campaign finance restrictions, countered that the Senate resolution on the table is “embarrassingly bad.” Amending the Constitution as proposed would not only “allow the government to favor certain speakers over others, it would guarantee such preferential treatment,” McConnell told the panel. “It contains a provision, not found in prior proposals, which expressly provides that Congress cannot ‘abridge the freedom of the press.’ That’s really great if you’re a corporation that owns a newspaper. It is not so great for everyone else. The media wins and everyone else loses.”

Judiciary Chairman Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., called the hearing to consider a constitutional amendment proposed by Sens. Tom Udall, D-N.M., and Michael Bennet, D-Colo., that would give Congress the power to restrict political money. The proposed amendment would also reverse a string of Supreme Court decisions to deregulate political money, including the 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling which lifted limits on independent campaign spending, and the McCutcheon v. FEC ruling this year to eliminate aggregate per-election cycle limits on campaign contributions. It’s the second in a series of political money-focused hearings organized by Senate Democrats in the wake of the McCutcheon ruling.

The sharply divided views presented by Reid and McConnell set the stage for a lively hearing, which featured one demonstrator removed by police, and some fiery statements by senators on both sides of the aisle. Leahy noted that 2 million individuals have signed petitions calling for a constitutional amendment that would reverse Citizens United and other rulings, and that the petitions had been brought to the hearing in boxes “as a tangible reminder” that voters want Congress to act.

“I have heard from countless Vermonters about how the Supreme Court’s decisions threaten the constitutional rights of hardworking Americans who want to have their voices heard, not drowned in a sea of corporate special interests and a flood of campaign ads on television,” Leahy said.

But Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, recited a litany of the advocacy groups that he said the amendment would “muzzle,” from the Sierra Club to the National Rifle Association. He declared: “This amendment, if adopted, would give Congress the power to ban books and to ban movies.” Cruz also announced he introduced two bills Tuesday to protect individuals’ First Amendment rights in the face of Democrats’ efforts to regulate political spending.

  • left wing

    senile harry hates freedom and wants to gut the Constitution

  • James A. DeHart

    Exactly what is wrong with our government? Here they are sparring over something that is really meaningless, while our lawless President flitters hither and yond. Tell these incompetents they are there to serve the people, and start doing your job!

  • Mark Uss

    The things which ultimately become available to most of us only become so because they were the prior luxuries of a few.

  • Ocean Sprayz

    Fun fact: U.S. Founding Father John Jay was Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, second Governor of New York, and President of the American Bible Society.

  • Yonatan YONATAN

    The Republicans & Democrats, have both Failed, the More Than 2.6 Million Unemployed Families, still Without an Extension Of Unemployment Benefits, since Late Last December. For the past Five And A Half Months, these families have had to face Evictions, Home foreclosures, Bankruptcy, and Homelessness, while these two political parties played “Party Politics” in the senate, Delaying and Postponing the vote. The Republicans in particular, have held the Extension Bill “Hostage” in the senate, never truly planning on passing the bill. When Billions of Tax Payer Dollars have been Approved for the Ukraine, and More spent on Military aid for Europe, the poor & Unemployed in this country are left alone to struggle and suffer economically. We have Representatives that are No Longer Representing the interests of the average American, but are answering to Corporate America and Special Interest Groups instead. These career politicians need be voted out of office in the coming election.

  • Yonatan YONATAN

    WHAT ABOUT THE 3 MILLION UNEMPLOYED AMERICANS WHO HAVE BEEN WITHOUT AN UNEMPLOYMENT EXTENSION SINCE LATE LAST DECEMBER? THESE FAMILIES, MANY OF WHOM, HAVE FACED FINANCIAL RUIN, OVER THE PASSED SIX MONTHS DUE TO THE INABILITY OF THE TWO POLITICAL PARTIES TO ACT EFFECTIVELY ON THEIR BEHALF. WHEN BILLIONS OF TAX PAYER DOLLARS HAS BEEN APPROVED FOR THE UKRAINE, THE REPUBLICANS ARE STILL UNCERTAIN WHETHER WE CAN AFFORD TO HELP THESE UNEMPLOYED AMERICAN FAMILIES. HOW CAN THIS BE EVEN POSSIBLE TO BE HAPPENING? IS IT MORE COST EFFECTIVE TO HAVE THESE MILLIONS OF FAMILIES NEEDING TO GO ON PUBLIC ASSISTANCE AND FOOD STAMPS IN ORDER TO SUPPORT THEIR FAMILIES INSTEAD? THE REPUBLICAN AND DEMOCRATS HAVE BOTH FAILED THESE THREE MILLION FAMILIES MISERABLY. MAYBE THEY JUST DON’T CARE ANYMORE. MAYBE THEY’RE MORE CONCERN WITH THEIR OWN PARTY AGENDA AND PERSONAL ENRICHMENT. THE NEXT ELECTION PROMISES TO BE A TIME FOR TOTAL CHANGE IN THE POLITICAL ARENA. MANY OF THESE POLITICIANS WILL NOT BE IN OFFICE.

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