(CNSNews.com) -- Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) blasted Senate Democrats over a proposed constitutional amendment that would empower Congress to regulate campaign finance at a Senate Judiciary hearing Tuesday, accusing them of "daring to mess with the Bill of Rights."
"When did elected Democrats abandon the Bill of Rights?" Cruz asked. "Where did the liberals go?...Why is there not a liberal standing here defending the Bill of Rights and the First Amendment?"
“The Bill of Rights begins with the First Amendment. For over two centuries, Congress has not dared to mess with the Bill of Rights,” Cruz stated. “This amendment, here today, if adopted, would repeal the free speech protections of the First Amendment."
“When citizens hear that, they gasp,” Cruz said. “As immune as we are to abuse of power from government, citizens are still astonished that members of Congress would dare support repealing the First Amendment.”
Proposed by Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) and co-sponsored by 42 other Senate Democrats, the proposed amendment would give Congress the power to regulate the raising and spending of money in federal elections, allowing it to place limits on campaign contributions and funds spent for the purpose of a candidate’s election. The amendment would also allow states to regulate campaign finance in the same manner. (See Campaign finance amendment.pdf)
If passed by Congress and ratified by the states, the proposed amendment would effectively repeal Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2010), in which the Supreme Court held that the government could not restrict independent political expenditures by corporations, associations, or labor unions. (See Citizens United ruling.pdf)
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who supports the amendment, made a rare appearance as a witness at the hearing. “Our involvement in government should not be dependent on our bank account balances,” Reid testified. “Elections in our country should be decided by voters.”
But Cruz emphatically challenged Reid’s assertion that the proposed amendment would simply level the playing field for all Americans by limiting the contributions of corporations and billionaires.
“Let’s be clear—this amendment doesn’t just do it for corporations. It doesn’t just do it for billionaires. Nothing in this amendment is limited to corporations or billionaires," Cruz pointed out. “This amendment, if adopted, would give Congress absolute authority to regulate the political speech of every single American with no limitations whatsoever.”
“This amendment is about power, and it is about politicians silencing the citizens,” Cruz added.
“The Constitution of this country was not a rough draft. We must stop treating it as such,” Cruz continued, quoting former Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold, co-sponsor of the McCain-Feingold law, parts of which were struck down by the Supreme Court in its Citizens United ruling. “The First Amendment is the bedrock of the Bill of Rights. It has as its underpinnings that each individual has a natural and fundamental right to disagree with their elected leaders.”
"Not if this amendment passes." Cruz said. "If this amendment passes, Congress can say, 'You the citizens are no longer citizens; you're subjects because we've repealed the First Amendment and taken away your ability to speak."
Senate Judiciary Committee ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) alluded to George Orwell’s dystopian novel Animal Farm when referring to the proposed amendment, saying, “That would produce an Orwellian world, where every speaker is equal, but some speakers are more equal than others.”
Cruz similarly alluded to Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, saying, “This amendment, if adopted, would give Congress the power to ban books and ban movies, and by the way, Citizens United was about fining a moviemaker who made a movie critical of Hillary Clinton…. Ray Bradbury would be astonished, because we are seeing Fahrenheit 451 Democrats today.”
“The American people should be angry about this, and…the senators who put their name to this should be embarrassed,” Cruz concluded.
In order for the amendment to become law, it would have to pass both houses of Congress by a two-thirds majority, and then be ratified by three-fourths of the states.