Senate Panel OKs Udall Amendment to Limit Campaign Spending
SANTA FE, N.M. - A proposed constitutional amendment from U.S. Senator Tom Udall of New Mexico that would give control of campaign spending to Congress and the states has passed its first political hurdle.
The nine-member Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights approved Senate Joint Resolution 19 by a 5-to-4 vote Wednesday. Robert Weissman, president of the nonprofit group Public Citizen, says it's the first step in a long political process to again attempt to limit campaign donations, after several U.S. Supreme Court rulings have nearly removed campaign spending limits.
"Amending the Constitution to overturn Citizens United and these other harmful decisions is really a far-reaching effort to rescue our democracy," says Weissman.
According to Jennifer Talheim, spokesperson to Senator Udall, Supreme Court rulings like Buckley versus Valeo in the 1970s and the more recent Citizens United and McCutcheon cases have determined that campaign spending is a form of speech or opinion, essentially making a person's campaign donations a First Amendment issue.
Weissman says even a year ago, a constitutional amendment seemed very unlikely, but he adds that public support for the action is growing fast.
"Politicians and others thought there wouldn't be enough support to get there," says Weissman, "and what we've seen over the last four years is a real groundswell of the public demanding action. And it's now been so significant as to press forward this action in the Senate."
Senate Joint Resolution 19 is expected to be considered for a full vote by the Senate Judiciary Committee next month. Passage there would likely lead to a full Senate vote this fall. However, Weissman cautions passage of a constitutional amendment is difficult and can take years to complete. It requires a two-thirds vote in Congress, and support from three-quarters, or 38, of the states.