On Thursday, a group of House members reintroduced a Congressional amendment that would overturn the controversial 2013 Citizens United ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled that restrictions on corporate spending for political causes represented an unconstitutional affront against free speech. The ruling cleared the way for staggering levels of so-called “dark money” spending that have unfolded during the elections since the monumental decision, and the new effort against the ruling was led by Reps. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), John Katko (R-N.Y.), Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), and Jamie Raskin (D-Md.).
Prospective Constitutional amendments require the support of two-thirds of both chambers of Congress, at which point they’re sent to states, three-fourths of which must ratify the measure for it to become law. Although limits remain in place on what individuals and entities can donate directly to campaigns, so-called super PACs can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money with the stipulation of a prohibition against direct coordination with campaigns. To fix this problem of large amounts of money automatically equaling a large voice in the political process, the proposed Constitutional amendment would explicitly provide state and federal governments with the authority to more closely regulate political spending.
Democrats, as a whole, tend to support electoral reform measures like this proposed amendment, while Republican support for similar measures is significantly more spotty, to say the least. Deutch commented as follows:
‘We cannot allow the wealthiest individuals and corporations to flood our elections with cash through complex webs of Super PACs and dark money groups that put special interests above the will of the American people. Americans overwhelmingly support stronger gun laws to keep our communities safe, action on climate change to preserve our planet, and a fair economy that doesn’t leave the most vulnerable behind or deny people basic needs like healthcare and a living wage. Unfortunately, big money in our politics gets in the way time and time again. Limitless campaign spending makes it harder for Washington to solve problems and opens the door to corruption. To ensure that our elections produce a democracy for all, we must overturn Citizens United and get big money out of our elections.’
There’s another action item on the agenda in the Senate that covers similar territory: the We The People Act, which the Democrat-led House has already passed. The legislation would impose ethical standards on members of Congress and the Supreme Court, require the disclosure of donors to super PACs, and more.
At present, Democrats control the Senate, but lots of legislation requires the support of at least 60 Senators in order to pass, because 60 votes are frequently required to end debate. Amidst negotiations over a power-sharing agreement in the currently 50-50 Senate, where Democrats have control because of Vice President Kamala Harris’s role as a tiebreaker, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has insisted upon preserving this mechanism, but Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) is refusing.
On Friday morning, Schumer said that McConnell’s “proposal for how to organize the Senate is unacceptable—and it won’t be accepted.” At present, because no new organizing rules have officially been adopted, Republicans still hold the chairperson positions on a slew of important Senate committees, although this issue may soon be resolved.
The American people chose to retire four Republican Senators and elect a Democratic majority to this Senate.
Senator McConnell’s proposal for how to organize the Senate is unacceptable—and it won’t be accepted.
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) January 22, 2021