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Senate Committee Approves Plan on Campaign Spending Limits

PHOTO: How much political clout can corporations or millionaires buy? Recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions that increased campaign spending limits also prompted SJR 19, a proposed constitutional amendment to curtail those limits. It was approved 10-8 by a U.S. Senate committee on Thursday. Photo credit: Lucidology/iStockphoto.com
PHOTO: How much political clout can corporations or millionaires buy? Recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions that increased campaign spending limits also prompted SJR 19, a proposed constitutional amendment to curtail those limits. It was approved 10-8 by a U.S. Senate committee on Thursday. Photo credit: Lucidology/iStockphoto.com
July 11, 2014

SEATTLE - A constitutional amendment giving Congress and states control of political campaign spending is moving toward a vote on the U.S. Senate floor.

The Senate Judiciary Committee passed Senate Joint Resolution 19 on Thursday in a 10-8 party-line vote.

Jonah Minkoff-Zern, campaign co-director for the group Public Citizen, said the resolution's goal is to help reverse the effects of "big money" on elections, after U.S. Supreme Court rulings in cases such as Citizens United and McCutcheon that increased campaign spending limits.

"Across political lines," he said, "people are saying that they want a constitutional amendment, that they want big money out of our political system - and that they see that they're no longer in control of the people who are supposed to represent them."

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., is among 45 co-sponsors of the resolution.

Opponents warn that approving it could set a dangerous precedent by potentially giving the government the ability to limit free speech. But more than 550 municipalities have passed their own resolutions for a constitutional amendment, including about a dozen in Washington, as well as 16 states.

A full Senate vote will most likely not happen until after the August recess, said Stephen Spaulding, policy counsel with the group Common Cause. He pointed out that passage would require 67 "yes" votes, and that means at least a dozen Senate Republicans would have to be among them.

"We know that it's an uphill battle, so that's why it's critical that senators from both sides of the aisle hear from their constituents," he said. "Because there is a broad consensus that money has far too much power, in Washington and in statehouses."

A companion bill in the U.S. House will be introduced next week. Passage of a constitutional amendment requires a two-thirds vote in both houses of Congress, and ratification by at least 38 states.

Text of the resolution is online at thomas.loc.gov.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA