Tuesday, June 3, 2014

McConnell, Reid make rare joint appearance to discuss campaign-finance constitutional amendment

McConnell listens to Reid. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla, Getty Images)
Sen. Mitch McConnell and Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid "have been sparring over campaign finance for months," NBC News' First Read notess, and Tuesday they testified about it before the Senate Judiciary Committee, marking the first time both had spoken to the panel about policy – in this case, a constitutional amendment to roll back recent Supreme Court decisions relaxing rules for political contributions.

CNN says it was "the political equivalent of a heavyweight fight," but it didn't last long. "Neither senator stayed to answer questions from their colleagues," notes Ashley Parker of The New York Times.

Reid, who as majority leader testified first and then left, said he has felt "unclean" after raising millions of dollars to win election and re-election in Nevada 1998, 2004 and 2010. "I hope that did not corrupt me, but it was corrupting," he said. "“The flood of dark money into our nation’s political system poses the greatest threat to our democracy that I have witnessed during my time in public service  . . . The Constitution doesn't give corporations a vote, and it doesn't give dollar bills a vote," so he supports the amendment.

McConnell "called it a threat to basic speech rights," CNN reports. "By setting spending rates, McConnell argued, Congress would chose who gets how much influence in politics." CBS reports, "By including a provision that expressly says Congress cannot abridge the freedom of the press, McConnell said the amendment would 'allow the government to favor certain speakers over others -- it would guarantee preferential treatment.' He continued, 'This is really great if you're a corporation that owns a newspaper -- you get your speech, but nobody else does.'" For a video of his statement, click here.

McConnell also said the amendment is being proposed to "stir up one party's political base so they'll show up in November. . . . Everybody on this committee knows this proposal is never going to pass Congress." Passage of a constitutional amendment from Congress requires a two-thirds vote in both the Senate and House, and approval by three-fourths of state legislatures. Given the current makeup of Congress and the legislatures, the proposal "is almost certain to fail," Parker writes. "Amending the Constitution is incredibly hard. Perhaps too hard, some people believe," writes Francene Kiefer of the Christian Science Monitor. "The challenge was seen at Tuesday’s hearing."

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