Senate Will Vote on 28th Amendment to Limit Money’s Role in Politics
The prospects for overturning the Supreme Court’s destructive Citizens United decision that opened the door for floods of corporate money to distort political elections are looking brighter after the Senate Judiciary Committee voted Thursday to send the idea to the Senate floor.
The Senate Judiciary Committee approved the proposed 28th Amendment to the US Constitution (S.J. Res. 19, in Congressional parlance) which Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) initiated, and to which 47 Senators have now pledged their support.
S.J. Res. 19 would reverse the Supreme Court’s determination in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (FEC), that essentially gave corporations (and unions) the green light to spend what they may please on advertisements and other tools to advocate for the election or defeat of candidates for political office. It would also overturn two complementary decisions, namely McCutcheon v. FEC and Buckley v. Valeo, both of which installed obstacles to legislatures that would seek to put any limits on election campaign contributions by individuals.
S.J. Res. 19’s progress reflects four years of grassroots campaigning from pro-democracy organizations around the country, who have tracked the corrupting influence of money in American politics as it has escalated over the last several decades. One of these organizations is Public Citizen, a non-profit democracy advocacy center established in Washington in 1971. Public Citizen and some partners launched the effort to overturn Citizen’s United with a Constitutional Amendment immediately after the decision came down in 2010.
Margrete Strand of Public Citizen told Radio VR that the Senate Judiciary Committee’s decision Thursday to send S.J. Res. 19 to the Senate floor for a vote (most likely in September) “is a huge step. It’s an ambitious goal (to pass a Constitutional Amendment). But the fact that there is a serious conversation about it in the Senate is very encouraging. Every poll of public opinion shows that the public is fed up…. We have seen massive support, since the American public understands how damaging the system is.”
Strand added that S.J. Res. 19 went through the Judiciary Committee clean, with no markups beyond light touches made to it in recent months. And she said that public participation in the process has remained strong to this day, with constituents calling their Senators in large numbers to put pressure on them to support S.J. Res. 19.
The path to realization of a Constitutional Amendment is still long. Two-thirds of the Senate must approve, then three-fourths of the states, and also two-thirds of the House. But 16 states and 550 cities have already asked for this Amendment, and 170 members of Congress have expressed their support. It could just happen.