Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 12, 2016

Senate Will Vote on Campaign Finance Constitutional Amendment, Schumer Says

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Senate Democrats plan to vote to amend the Constitution to upend recent Supreme Court decisions tossing federal laws restricting campaign contributions.

That vote will take place at some point this year, news that was set to be announced at a Rules and Administration hearing on campaign finance policy.

Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, appeared on MSNBC ahead of the hearing to push immediate disclosure of contributions of $1,000 or more. King’s chairing the hearing, which will feature testimony from former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens and numerous campaign finance experts.

But, it wasn’t entirely clear what direction the hearing might take.

During an exchange with Chuck Todd of NBC News, King conceded he would be open to higher limits (or perhaps unlimited) contributions if they were disclosed, given the rules being set by the Supreme Court.

“Would you prefer a system that allowed $250,000 checks to be written directly to candidates, as long as you knew who that person was in a 24-hour period, rather than a $250,000 check be written and find out a year later who wrote the check?” Todd asked.

“Well if that’s the choice, yes,” King replied. “I don’t think we should have $250,000 checks written to individual candidates, but if the choice is dark versus disclosed, I think that’s better. I mean, look. In Maine, you can’t go to a Maine town meeting with a bag over your head.”

The immediate plan that the Democratic caucus has for addressing campaign finance regulations faces terribly long odds.

Sen. Charles E. Schumer of New York, the no. 3 in the Democratic leadership and chairman of the Rules and Administration panel, was making the announcement the Senate would vote this year on a constitutional amendment that would nullify the Supreme Court’s expansive reading of the First Amendment with respect to campaign contributions.

According to his prepared statement, Schumer was planning to cite the Citizens United ruling in addition to the recent McCutcheon case. Citizens United removed many limits on outside groups, while McCutcheon did away with aggregate limits on contributions to candidates and party committees by individuals.

“These recent Supreme Court opinions, if unchallenged, could end that legacy and permanently taint future elections,” Schumer said. “That’s why Senate Democrats are going to vote this year on my colleague Tom Udall’s constitutional amendment which would once and for all allow Congress to make laws to regulate our system, without the risk of them being eviscerated by a conservative Supreme Court.”

“It’s now crystal clear that we need a constitutional amendment to restore integrity in our election system. I am grateful for the support from Senator Reid and Senator Schumer, and I look forward to a vote in the Senate as soon as possible to ensure our government is of, by and for the people — not bought and paid for by secret donors and special interests,” Udall, a New Mexico Democrat, said in his own statement.

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