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Senate Committee Approves Plan on Campaign Spending Limits

IMAGE: A first step toward ending big money in politics? The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee has approved a proposed constitutional amendment to give Congress and states control of campaign spending limits, in response to recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions. Image credit: DonkeyHotey/Flickr
IMAGE: A first step toward ending big money in politics? The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee has approved a proposed constitutional amendment to give Congress and states control of campaign spending limits, in response to recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions. Image credit: DonkeyHotey/Flickr
July 11, 2014

BISMARCK, N.D. - A constitutional amendment giving Congress and states control of political campaign spending is moving toward a vote on the U.S. Senate floor, after winning approval Thursday in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The goal of Senate Joint Resolution 19, said Jonah Minkoff-Zern, campaign co-director for the group Public Citizen, is to help reverse the effect that big money has had on elections following 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."

Among the 45 co-sponsors in support of the amendment is Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D.

Its opponents point to the Bill of Rights, warning that approval could set a dangerous precedent by potentially giving the government the ability to limit free speech.

At this point, approval in the full Senate is considered an uphill climb and the odds in the U.S. House are even slimmer. However, Minkoff-Zern said the tide is turning as support for limiting the role of big money in politics continues to grow nationwide.

"For the over 550 local municipalities that have called for a constitutional amendment, for the 16 states that have called for a constitutional amendment - it's a huge victory," he said, "the fact that the U.S. Senate is taking it up for a vote."

Passage of a constitutional amendment requires a two-thirds vote in both houses of Congress, and ratification from three-fourths of the states.

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

John Michaelson, Public News Service - ND