Yesterday was another heated day on the floor of the Senate, as Republicans took to the podium to lambaste SJR 19, Democrats’ latest effort to control the content and flow of political speech in America.
As we discussed Monday, SJR 19 proposes a Constitutional amendment that would give Congress the right to set limits on how much money can be raised for and spent in federal political campaigns, and would drastically limit the First Amendment rights to both free speech and free association. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), and Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), have spent the past two days defending the resolution as our last chance to preserve the integrity of the vote—and proposing some dangerous policy in the process.
Senate Majority Whip Durbin says we should have taxpayer funded campaigns. Do you agree or disagree?
— JohnCornyn (@JohnCornyn) September 8, 2014
Tuesday brought both junior and senior Senators to the floor in opposition to the proposed amendment, putting Democrats on defense and causing waves on social media. One of the main concerns raised in Tuesday’s floor speeches was the potential for government control over political speech to spiral, and cut off the flow of information entirely.
Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) got creative with his presentation, targeting Senator Al Franken (D-MN) and others who embrace parody and humor as part of their political commentary:
“Congress would have the power to make it a criminal offense, Lorne Michaels could be put in jail under this amendment for making fun of any politician. That is extraordinary. It is breathtaking and it is dangerous,” the Texas Republican argued on the Senate floor on Tuesday, with a board of stills from the late-night sketch show displayed behind him.
Cruz said that the proposal, which will face a vote tomorrow, gives Congress the authority to prohibit corporations from engaging in political speech.
“Well, NBC which airs Saturday Night Live, is a corporation,” Cruz said, who gave his own impression of Dana Carvey as President George H.W. Bush.
Both Senators Mike Lee (R-UT) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) addressed the valid concern that if passed, SJR 19 could eventually spur a constitutional amendment that would prevent the spread of any information Congress deems inappropriate or inconvenient.
"Inconsequentially, the Obama Admin and the Dems are advocating the banning of books -& that should be a terrifying prospect" @ChuckGrassley
— Citizens United (@Citizens_United) September 9, 2014
— Citizens United (@Citizens_United) September 9, 2014
Senator Lee has a great point. SJR 19 contains a convenient provision addressing how the resolution could affect press access:
Section 3. Nothing in this article shall be construed to grant
Congress or the States the power to abridge the freedom of the
The problem with this is, we’ve never defined what “the press” is. We know that ABC/NBC/CBS count, but does Legal Insurrection? Does Breitbart News? Does Joe Smith Blogger from Litchfield, Illinois count? There’s no possible way to control the effects of SJR 19’s proposed amendment because there are too many variables left undefined. It’s vague by nature, which could spell disaster for activists and bloggers.
Although some have questioned the Republican leadership’s strategy of allowing the resolution to move forward, John Hayward at Human Events has an editorial out that describes perfectly why this tactic will leave Republicans on top:
Senate Democrats have been wasting America’s time on a showboating effort to repeal the First Amendment – a bill they know is doomed to go nowhere, but it would give them something to sell to their dispirited base going into the midterm elections. The Republicans were supposed to slap this dumbassery down, giving Democrats a chance to run to their gullible base voters and cry: See, we tried to do something about the evil Koch Brothers, but those rascally Republicans stopped us, because they think billionaires should be able to buy elections!
But Senate Republicans, with a twinkle in their eye, voted to advance the Democrats’ stupid bill, making the Democrats look utterly foolish as they whined to the media about how those mean old Republicans took their base-goosing clown act seriously.
Shot and chaser. We knew Harry Reid was going to bring this up at some point this year because “getting money out of elections” is the kind of tripe that gets the progressive base all whipped up and mobilized. Why not take advantage of this opportunity to make Democrats look foolish, and let Republicans flex their muscles?
The benefit is twofold: the media is already being forced to cover this as an issue that a Republican minority is perfectly willing to debate (down goes Reid’s easiest talking point;) but more importantly, it gives conservatives an opportunity to bring the concepts of free speech and association to center stage. The fact that this resolution exists is proof that this discussion needs to happen; SJR 19 is dangerous, not because it tinkers with campaign finance law, but because, as Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) put it, its very premise is grounded in the idea that freedom of speech somehow reduces liberty:
“Senate Joint Resolution 19 is exactly…what America’s founders ratified the First Amendment to prevent. Supporters of this radical proposal apparently believe that freedom itself is the problem. That view is contrary to the fundamental principles of this Republic and incompatible with free society. Freedom is not a problem. It’s the solution.”DONATE
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