Feb. 13, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Senate Democrats Begin Efforts to Amend Constitution

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Udall is hoping for a vote on his amendment to the Constitution before the midterm elections.

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 S J 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.

“I’m going to be pushing for a vote before November,” Udall told CQ Roll Call.

This amendment “has no chance whatsoever of being adopted,” said Rick Hasen, a law professor at the University of California, Irvine. “I think it’s more a matter of keeping the issue in the public eye and scoring political points than it is about actually changing the Constitution.”

Despite the unlikelihood of passage, the push has Republicans crying foul.

“This is an election year effort to try to silence people who our Democratic colleagues don’t agree with,” Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, said.

Cornyn called the amendment “an outrage” and his fellow Judiciary Committee Republicans echoed his argument that Udall’s proposal limiting political spending also limits free speech.

“Putting Congress in charge of who gets free speech is about the worst idea I’ve heard in a long, long time,” Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., said. “So let them bring it to the floor.”

Before a vote in the chamber, the resolution will have to pass the Judiciary Committee. Udall’s amendment is likely to advance out of committee even if all of the committee’s Republicans vote “no” because, aside from Chairman Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., all of the committee’s Democrats are co-sponsors of the resolution.

“It would probably be out [of committee] within a month, month and a half,” Udall predicted.

Udall and his fellow Democrats said now is the time to address money in politics, despite Republican opposition and the high threshold for passage.

“All of this outside money and the inability of us to put any limits on it is a scourge on our elections and our democracy no matter what side you’re on,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar said.

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