September 8, 2014 - Issue: Vol. 160, No. 127 — Daily Edition113th Congress (2013 - 2014) - 2nd Session
CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT; Congressional Record Vol. 160, No. 127
(Senate - September 08, 2014)
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[Pages S5363-S5364] From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov] CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT Mr. GRASSLEY. Mr. President, with all the problems facing the country and the world, the majority has decided the time has come to cut back on the Bill of Rights to be amended for the first time in our history. We hear from the other side repeatedly that they revere the Constitution. But they want to restrict the core of free speech. That is speech that allows a self-governing people to choose in elections the people who will represent them. This proposed amendment would enshrine in our Constitution the ability of elected officials to criminally punish those who would dare to criticize them more than the elected officials think is reasonable. Today Americans are free to spend unlimited money on behalf of candidates and political issues and messages of their choice. The amendment being proposed would put those who would engage in political speech on notice that they may be prosecuted for being active citizens in our democracy. That threat of criminal prosecution would not just chill speech, it would freeze political speech. This proposed amendment would be the biggest threat to free speech that Congress would have enacted since the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798. The First Amendment creates a marketplace of ideas. When people disagree on political speech, competing voices respond to each other and the public then decides. When speech is free, people are not shut up with the threat of jail if the government thinks they speak too much. Since the 1970s, the Supreme Court has ruled repeatedly that because effective speech can only occur through the expenditure of money, government cannot restrict campaign expenditures by candidates or anybody else. The Court has recognized that effective campaign speech requires that individuals have the right to form groups that [[Page S5364]] might actually spend money on campaign speech. The proposed amendment is very radical. It would not overturn just 1 or 2 but it would overturn 12 Supreme Court decisions. That was the testimony before the Judiciary Committee of the country's foremost First Amendment lawyer, Floyd Abrams. The other side may think the Senate can simply filibuster the motion to proceed and then move on to some other political vote they may want to have us take. Proposals to amend our fundamental charter of liberty, the Bill of Rights, should be treated more seriously. We should have debate on this important amendment. The majority should be made to answer for why they want to silence their critics under threat of criminal prosecution. I look forward to supporting the vote to move to that debate, and I now yield the floor. The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Georgia. ____________________