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Constitutional amendment to curb free speech about political officeholders and issues

09/11/2014
Senate Roll Call No. 261
113rd Congress, 2nd Session

Rejected: 54-42 (see complete tally)
In response to a series of U.S. Supreme Court decisions that protect the right to spend money to criticize or praise those who hold or seek political office, Democrats in the U.S. Senate proposed S. J. Res. 19, a constitutional amendment sponsored by Senator Tom Udall (D-NM).  This amendment, if approved by Congress and ratified by three-quarters of the states, would give Congress and state legislatures the power to ration or even criminalize virtually any form of speech that might "influence elections."  The resolution specifically empowers Congress and the state legislatures to completely ban any speech by incorporated groups, such as NRLC, that legislators or regulators believe may "influence elections," which could include any speech about the votes or other official actions of members of Congress or state legislatures.  Even speech that does not mention candidates, but that deals with a controversial policy issue, could be restricted under this radical proposal -- and there would be nothing to prevent Congress or a state legislature from restricting speech by only one side of a contentious issue. In a letter to senators dated September 3, 2014, NRLC expressed strong opposition to S. J. Res. 19, on grounds that it would "empower incumbent federal and state lawmakers to restrict and criminalize speech that is critical of their actions on crucial public policy issues, including abortion."  On September 11, 2014, the Senate conducted a procedural vote which had the effect of ending action on S. J. Res. 19 for the year, with 54 Democrats voting to advance the measure and 42 Republicans voting to block it.  Thus, a majority of senators voted to support S. J. Res. 19, but short of the 60 votes necessary to advance the measure to a final vote, and short of the two-thirds margin needed to pass a constitutional amendment.  Roll call no. 261.



Vote Map: Senate Roll Call No. 261
Votes For : 54
Votes Against : 42
Not Voting : 4

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