Tom Udall

Get ready for a showdown over free speech: Harry Reid will push partial repeal of the First Amendment next week

When the Senate returns to Washington next week, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is expected to bring up S.J. Res. 19, a constitutional amendment proposed by Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) that would effectively repeal political speech protections in the First Amendment.

Reid filed a motion to proceed on the constitutional amendment on August 1, just before the chamber adjourned for its summer recess. Although the original text of the amendment gave Congress the sole power to regulate political speech, including campaign finance regulations, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved the measure with substitute language to allow states to implement their own rules and regulations, in addition to those passed by Congress.

The measure, however, is an attempt to diminish the influence of issue-focused nonprofit organizations and political action committees, which, Senate Democrats say, are often funded by corporate interests. Section 2 of the amendment would allow Congress and state legislatures to prohibit “corporations or other artificial entities created by law…from spending money to influence elections.”

Oh, in case you forgot, House Democrats really hate the First Amendment

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and House Democrats will introduce a constitutional amendment today designed overturn recent Supreme Court decisions by repealing political speech protections in the First Amendment:

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi will introduce the House’s version of legislation that would overturn decisions like Citizens United v. FEC and McCutcheon v. FEC — court cases that helped create modern-day super PACs and stripped rules limiting aggregate limits on donations.

The amendment would give Congress and the states the power to regulate campaign financing, fundraising and spending, including money spent by independent expenditures.

The proposed constitutional amendment sounds a little different from the one proposed by Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) and backed by most Democratic senators. The original text of the upper chamber’s version, which passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday, would give Congress the power to regulate political speech.

The intended effect of both amendments, however, is to undermine political speech. Because, in Orwellian American, gutting a civil liberty protected by the Bill of Rights is what passes for an election year issue. Or something.

A new low for Senate Democrats: They’re actually running on limiting a fundamental right as part of their election year strategy

First Amendment

Senate Democrats plan to move forward on Sen. Tom Udall’s (D-NM) proposed constitutional amendment that would repeal part of the First Amendment and allow Congress regulate political speech. Because that doesn’t have disaster written all over it, or anything:

It’s been 22 years since the last amendment to the Constitution took effect, but Senate Democrats are hoping to alter the nation’s founding document once again.

The likelihood of crossing the threshold to amend the Constitution over campaign finance is slim to none, however. An amendment would have to garner support from two-thirds of the House and Senate, before being approved by three-fourths of the states.

Despite that seemingly insurmountable hurdle, Senate Democrats are forging ahead with a plan to bring SJ Res 19 to the floor.

This resolution would add a 28th Amendment, stating that Congress can regulate contributions and spending in federal elections. It would also give state governments the same authority in statewide contests.

Democratic leaders have already said they plan to bring the amendment up for a vote in the Senate by the end of the year. But the resolution’s sponsor, Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., is hoping for a vote before the midterm elections.

Senate Democrats want to dismantle the First Amendment

Senate Democrats plan to hold a vote on a constitutional amendment proposed by Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) that would effectively rewrite the First Amendment to give Congress the ability to regulate political speech:

The Senate will vote on an amendment sponsored by Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) that would overturn two recent court cases that have given corporations, labor unions and wealthy individuals free rein to spend freely on federal races.

“The Supreme Court is trying to take this country back to the days of the robber barons, allowing dark money to flood our elections. That needs to stop, and it needs to stop now,” said Senate Rules Committee Chairman Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who announced the plan.

“The only way to undo the damage the court has done is to pass Senator Udall’s amendment to the Constitution, and Senate Democrats are going to try to do that,” he said.

Schumer said the vote would take place by year’s end and called on Republican colleagues to join Democrats to ensure “the wealthy can’t drown out middle-class voices in our Democracy.”

Eyeroll. It’s gimmick, part of the populist message on which Senate Democrats are desperately trying to run as they face a tough mid-term election. It also serves to rally the party’s leftist base, which, apparently, only likes free speech when they’re the ones talking.

Senators introduce legislation to block arms, funding for Syrian rebels

President Barack Obama’s plan to send taxpayer funding and arms to Syrian rebels engaged in a civil war against Bashar Assad’s regime is getting some bipartisan legislation pushback.

Last week, the White House announced that it would the send money and arms to the rebels the rebels based on allegation that Assad had used chemical weapons against them. But there have been concerns expressed by both conservatives and progressives because one of the rebel groups, the al-Nusra Front, has been designated as a terrorist organization by the United States government due to its ties to al-Qaeda.

CNN reported last week that the al-Nusra Front is the “now the best-equipped arm of the terror group in existence today” and cited concern from analysts that the United States is “underestimating the Sunni-backed al Qaeda movement in the country.”

Some members of Congress believe that furthering the United States involvement in the Syrian civil war is long overdue. But a bipartisan group of Senators — Rand Paul (R-KY), Mike Lee (R-UT), Chris Murphy (D-CT), and Tom Udall (D-NM) — are seeking to prevent Syrian rebels from received access to any arms or taxpayer funding from the United States.

In a joint statement released yesterday, the Senators explained that their legislation doesn’t prohibit humanitarian aid, but it would block the White House from giving any military aid, direct or indirect, and military/paramilitary operations from being conducted inside the country.

Senate Democrats short on votes to scale back the filibuster

Harry Reid

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said last week that he had plans to have another go at scaling back the filibuster, a procedural tactic used to stall or kill legislation in that chamber. This wasn’t a new threat, Reid has been targeting the filibuster for some time. Back in 2010, when Democrats had a 60-vote majority, Reid threatened to make changes. Senate Republicans made some concessions, scaling back its use and agreeing to do away with “secret holds” on legislation.

But despite the most recent threat, Senate Democrats who want to do away with the filibuster or make substantial changes don’t have the votes, according to The Hill:

Democrats don’t have the 51 votes they need in the Senate to change filibuster rules that could make it harder for the GOP minority to wield power in the upper chamber.

Lawmakers leading the charge acknowledge they remain short, but express optimism they’ll hit their goal.

“I haven’t counted 51 just yet, but we’re working,” said Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.), a leading proponent of the so-called constitutional or “nuclear” option, in which Senate rules could be changed by a majority vote.
The problem for Udall and other supporters of filibuster reform is that many veteran Democratic senators remember when the filibuster was a useful tool in their years in the minority.

Why people blow off climate change

Climate change.  The mere mention of the term is bound to stir deep seated emotions regardless of political ideology, though that particular ideology may dictate what nature those emotions take.  However, it’s difficult for many people to take it seriously.  Why is that?  Because they’ve been wrong before.

From The Daily Caller:

During the hearing, Republican Sens. James Inhofe of Oklahoma and John Barrasso of Wyoming questioned the supposed need to enact policies to combat global warming by pointing to similar predictions in the 1970s of a global cooling phenomenon.

The exchange started with Barrasso addressing the committee’s witness, Environmental Protection Agency Director Lisa Jackson.

“Forty years ago, the same scientists that are predicting the end of the world now from global warming were predicting the end of the world from global cooling,” said Barrasso. “So if we had committed the same amount of taxpayer resources and government manpower that the administration now wants us to commit to prevent global warming — if we’d done that prevent global cooling, we wouldn’t be the most prosperous nation on earth.”

He continued: “The fact is that the same doomsday predictions we were getting 40 years is the exact same thing this agency and this administration today. Only now…the problem is man-made global warming.”

Senate Dems release filibuster proposal

Despite some skepticism among members - including Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE), Senate Democrats have released their proposal to change the rules for the filibuster (you can read it full at the bottom of the post or click here):

The package includes a concession to Senate Republicans who demanded a curb on Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) power to prevent amendments from getting votes.

The most significant proposed reform would require senators who wage filibusters to actually hold the floor by debating the issue in question — a physically onerous task.

If the majority party fails to muster 60 votes to cut off debate, the filibustering senators must “enter a period of continuous debate on the measure, motion or other matter pending,” according to the resolution.

The package would take away senators’ right to filibuster the motion to begin debate on a bill.
Secret holds now may be held for a few days before the opposing senator must reveal his or her name. Lawmakers, however, have exploited a loophole by passing holds back and forth to avoid the disclosure requirement. That practice would no longer be allowed.

Democrats chance to change filibuster rules fading

Senate Democrats are having problems within their own caucus at trying to change filibuster rules since members are balking at eliminating or altering minority rights since they realize that they would lose this tactics should the wind up out of power:

Democrats face delays in their effort to reform Senate rules to weaken the filibuster, a leader of that effort acknowledged Monday night.

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) said Democrats’ attempt to adopt new Senate rules would wait until later in January, when they would try to execute the so-called “constitutional option” to change Senate rules with a simple majority.

“Right now, the Senate majority leader is planning for us to come in just for a single day this Wednesday and then come back in on the 23rd or 24th,” Merkley said on MSNBC.

It is at that point — not on Wednesday, as had been originally thought — that Democrats will attempt to modify Senate rules to weaken the filibuster, one of the principal tools of the minority in the chamber.

Democrats have argued they have the power, under the Constitution, to change the Senate’s rules with only a simple majority on the chamber’s first day of operations. To execute the plan in later January, they would have to technically extend the current session until later this month, and officially begin work on the next term on Jan. 23 or 24.

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