Mitch McConnell has an op-ed in Politico accusing the Democrats of trying to “repeal the free speech protections the First Amendment guarantees to all Americans” by submitting a constitutional amendment that would overturn Citizens United and allow Congress to regulate independent expenditures during campaigns. The rhetoric is soaring and absurd:
That’s because the Democrats who control the Senate say they’re more interested in repealing the free speech protections the First Amendment guarantees to all Americans. Their goal is to shut down the voices of their critics at a moment when they fear the loss of their fragile Senate majority. And to achieve it, they’re willing to devote roughly half of the remaining legislative days before November to this quixotic anti-speech gambit.
The proposal they want to consider would empower incumbent politicians to write the rules on who gets to speak and who doesn’t. And while no one likes to be criticized, the way for Senate Democrats to avoid it is to make better arguments, or even better, to come up with better ideas — not shut up their constituents.
Not surprisingly, a proposal as bad as the one Senate Democrats are pushing won’t even come close to garnering the votes it would need to pass. But to many Democrats, that’s just the point. They want this proposal to fail because they think that somehow would help them on Election Day — they think it will help drive to the polls more left-wing voters who don’t like having to defend their ideas.
If all this seems like an object lesson in why most Americans are so disgusted with Washington right now, that’s because it is. With legislative priorities like this, it’s no wonder a recent Quinnipiac poll found that just 14 percent of respondents say they think the government in Washington can be counted on to do what’s right most or all of the time.
There are two really, really big problems with this argument. The first is that a huge majority of voters support exactly the kind of restrictions on big money influence in campaigns that is being proposed. In one recent poll, 73% supported the constitutional amendment now being proposed. Certainly if Congress passed such a bill, their overall approval rating would go up. And it’s McConnell, not the Democrats, who take a position so strongly opposed to the views of the voters.More importantly, let’s step into the Wayback Machine and go to 1987, when McConnell himself actually introduced a virtually identical constitutional amendment.
Constitutional Amendment – Declares that the Congress may enact laws regulating the amounts of expenditures a candidate may make from personal funds or the personal funds of the candidate’s immediate family or may incur with personal loans. Declares that the Congress may enact laws regulating the amounts of independent expenditures by any person, other than by a political committee of a political party, which can be made to expressly advocate the election or defeat of a clearly identified candidate for Federal office.
Declares that the States may enact such laws with respect to State and local offices.
So either McConnell wanted so much to “repeal the First Amendment” in 1987 that he personally introduced a constitutional amendment to do that, or the rhetoric he’s using now is complete bullshit. Take your pick.