Senate Democrats Fail to Amend the First Amendment


constitutional amendment that would have given Congress and state legislatures broad powers to suppress political speech in the name of "democratic self-government" and electoral "integrity" died a deservedly ignominious death in the Senate today. A motion to consider the proposed amendment, known as SJR 19, fell six votes short of the 60 needed.

The Washington Examiner's Sean Lengell notes that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) voted in favor of the motion, signaling that Democrats do not plan to bring the amendment up again. When Reid wants to preserve the option of reviving a bill he supports, he will vote against it, which under the Senate's rules allows him to try again another day. Lengell says Reid's vote confirms that SJR 19 "was mostly intended as a campaign season stunt."

If clamoring for a clampdown on freedom of speech really does help Democrats get out the vote, that's a pretty sad commentary on the state of their party. I find it hard to fathom why they want to be known as the team that tried to amend the First Amendment. Yes, I know: Citizens United was one of the worst Supreme Court decisions ever, corporations aren't people, money isn't speech, and the Koch Brothers are evil. But at the end of the day, it's the Democrats who are demanding a freedom-restricting change to the U.S. Constitution for crass political reasons, while the Republicans (who, of course, have crass political reasons of their own) are unanimously defending the Bill of Rights against ill-considered editing. Even if this debate was all about appearances, it is pretty hard to argue that the Democrats won.