Reid and McConnell take opposite stances on gutting First Amendment

Reid testifies for amendment to gut the First Amendment.

Reid testifies for amendment to gut the First Amendment.

The Senate majority leader and minority leader went head to head this week with testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on a proposed constitutional amendment that would usurp the First Amendment guarantee of free speech.

Nevada’s Democratic Sen. Harry Reid testified for the amendment and Kentucky’s Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell testified against it.

Here is a little compare-and-contrast from their prepared texts, from which they varied a bit in oral delivery:

Reid: “I am here because 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 decisions by the Supreme Court have left the American people with a status quo in which one side’s billionaires are pitted against the other side’s billionaires.”

McConnell: “Benjamin Franklin noted that ‘whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech.‘ The First Amendment is the constitutional guarantee of that freedom, and it has never been amended.”

Reid: “So we sit here today faced with a simple choice: We can keep the status quo and argue all day about whose billionaires are right – or, we can work together to change the system, to get this shady money out of our democracy and restore the basic principle of one American, one vote.”

McConnell: “It would empower incumbent politicians in Congress and in the states to write the rules on who gets to speak and who doesn’t. And the American people should be concerned — and many are already — that those in power would use this extraordinary authority to suppress speech that is critical of them.”

The amendment says that Congress and the states “shall have power to regulate the raising and spending of money and in-kind equivalents with respect to Federal elections, including through setting limits on the amount of contributions to candidates for nomination for election to, or for election to, Federal office; and the amount of funds that may be spent by, in support of, or in opposition to such candidates.”

Might that limit very be zero? No dollars? Why not? Or raise the limit drastically if that favored their side? Wouldn’t put it past them. They’d’ve favored a limit on the number of copies of “Common Sense” allowed to be printed and force Thomas Paine to put his name on it, instead of printing it anonymously to avoid being hanged. Such are the origins of the rights of free speech and press.

Reid: “They defend the money pumped into our system by the Koch brothers and others as ‘free speech.’ This constitutional amendment is about restoring freedom of speech to all Americans.”

Well, perhaps not all, as McConnell explains: “Not only would S.J. Res. 19 allow the government to favor certain speakers over others, it would guarantee such preferential treatment. It contains a provision, not found in prior proposals, which expressly provides that Congress cannot ‘abridge the freedom of the press.’ That’s great if you’re in the business of buying ink by the barrel; it’s not so great for everyone else. The media wins and everyone else loses.”

In the First Amendment both speech and press shall not be abridged by Congress. This was applied to the states by the 14th Amendment prohibition against the states taking away fundamental rights. But S.J. 19 says Congress may not abridge the free press but there is no prohibition against the states doing so.

McConnell pointed out that the amendment is unlikely to ever pass, but is being put forward as a political ploy: “Now, everyone on this Committee knows this proposal will never pass Congress. This is a political exercise.

“The goal here is to stir up one party’s political base so they’ll show up in November by complaining loudly about certain Americans exercising their free speech and associational rights, while being perfectly happy that other Americans — those who agree with the sponsors of this amendment — are doing the same thing.

“But the political nature of this exercise should not obscure how shockingly bad this proposal is.”

McConnell opposes amending the Constitution.

McConnell opposes amending the Constitution.



43 comments on “Reid and McConnell take opposite stances on gutting First Amendment

  1. The Scarlet Pimpernel says:

    I read the proposed amendment.. It’s a license for whatever party is in power in Congress to throttle the opposition, by writing such laws as may best benefit those already in power.

    “You should not examine legislation in the light of the benefits it will convey if properly administered, but in the light of the wrongs it would do and the harm it would cause if improperly administered.”
    — Lyndon Johnson, 36th President of the United States

  2. Looks like the man from Box 13 did not pay heed to his own advice, as witness the Great Society.

  3. Vernon Clayson says:

    Harry Reid said “his time in public service”, on a tweet I would say LOL ROFL, LMAO, as only by the narrowest of definitions can he claim being in public service, that would be his salary, which is assuredly a very small part of his income. When he speaks harshly of billionaires it’s in envy, not castigation. As for “The Scarlet Pimpernel” quoting LBJ, that’s another laugh, the only good and decent thing he ever said was that he wasn’t going to run again.

  4. Harry “services” the public the way the bull services the cow.

  5. Nyp says:

    I see we had another Second Amendment moment in Seattle today.

  6. Steve says:

    Here are few second amendment moments for you Nyp. Get with the program.!VeZXN

    I absolutely LOVE these feel good stories! Don’t you?

  7. Rincon says:

    The aristocracy has used its power over the past 35 years to grab half of the wealth previously owned by the bottom 85% – with the permission of the voters. Voters are pretty dense, but if the aristocracy continues to push its luck, the 85% will wake up and wield their awesome political might, spelling the demise of the aristocracy. Hopefully, they will be humane about it.

  8. Vernon Clayson says:

    Only in your dreams, Rincon, there will be no rise against the autocrats, we are a nation of obedient sheep, we aren’t even up to the standards of the old French and Spanish revolutionaries. As for nyp’s 2nd amendment moment, the weapon, a common shotgun, didn’t plan or carry out the attack, a crazy bastard did that. The students that stopped him should have mauled him, on the other hand he could be a masochist and would have liked that.

  9. Did harry make mention of labor union campaign spending?

  10. nyp says:

    Today’s Second Amendment moment comes from Georgia:
    “A Forsyth County, Georgia deputy was shot in the leg Friday morning at the county courthouse and the suspect is dead, Atlanta TV station WSB reported.Law enforcement sources told WSB that the suspect drove up to the Forsyth County Administration Building armed with “an assault rifle, bullet proof vest, smoke grenades and a gas mask.” Deputies came out of the building to confront him.Forsyth County Sheriff Duane Piper said the suspect is dead and the deputy is expected to recover.”

  11. Vernon Clayson says:

    I’m not inclined to crosscheck nyp’s BS but I’d like to know what kind of weapon the “assault rifle” was, to those with an agenda any firearm held to the shoulder is an assault rifle, assault rifle, assault rifle, assault rifle. nyp should end all of his comments saying, “I have to go get a grip on myself”.

  12. Nyp says:

    Good point, Vern — story is probably all a fabrication.

  13. Steve says:

    I see Nyp avoids home owner second amendment success stories….can’t hep but wonder why….

  14. nyp says:

    Another 217,000 jobs created last month.

    I blame ObamaCare.

  15. Almost enough to keep pace with population growth.

  16. Steve says:

    I blame Obamacare too, Nyp.

    It should have taken half as long to reach this point in a jobs recovery.

  17. Nyp says:

    The economy should be creating over 400,000 jobs every month???

  18. Steve says:

    How disingenuous of you, nyp.
    The economy should have been creating 200,000 jobs a month 4 years ago. Instead, thanks to the concentration on Obamacare, it took an extra four years to get to this point in jobs creation.

  19. nyp says:

    So, four years before ObamaCare came into effect, it was killing jobs, but, now that it is up and running, we are at the proper level of monthly job creation?

  20. WSJ: Despite signs of sustained strength, the job market is a far cry from what it was before the financial crisis slammed the economy in 2008. The number of jobs in manufacturing, construction and government—typically well-paying fields—has shrunk, while lower-wage work grew. The U.S. has 1.6 million fewer manufacturing jobs than when the recession began, but 941,000 more jobs in the accommodation and food-service sector. More than 40% of the jobs added in just the past year have come in generally lower-paying fields such as food service, retail and temporary help.

  21. Nyp says:

    So now you are complaining that the # of government jobs has decreased

  22. Steve says:

    Disingenous nyp, the job growth should have reached the present level 4 years ago. Were it not for the Obamacare push I think the recession would have “officially” ended four years ago.

    You guys put your priorities backward in your fervor for single payer health insurance and you couldn’t even get that.

  23. Nyp says:

    We should have had 200k monthly job growth four years ago during the greatest financial crisis since the Great Depression?

  24. Steve says:

    Disingenuous nyp , my post detailed the recession should have OFFICIALLY ended four years ago were it not for you guys push on Obamacare. As you finance guys ALL know,,jobs don’t begin to recover until a time AFTER a recession OFFICIALLY ends.

    You spinning like a bottle at a teeny bop party today nyp. Don’t get to dizzy.

  25. Nyp says:

    So the Great Recession would have officially ended in 2010, were it not for ObamaCare, which came into effect in 2014?

  26. Steve says:

    The “Summer of Recovery” it wasn’t.

    I re assert I agree with Nyp that Obamacare is the reason we are finally creating an appreciable number of jobs in this economy.
    I state again Obamacare is the reason it took so long to achieve, due directly to the concentration his peeps exerted on it rather than the troubles economy.
    The efforts to pass Obamacare took precedence over the economy nyp.

    Stop spinning. You ARE getting dizzy, nyp!

  27. Nyp says:

    So what measures should President Obama have taken in the Summer of 2010?

  28. Steve says:

    Not focus on Obamacare.

  29. nyp says:

    and do what?

  30. Steve says:

    OK nyp you asked.

    You guys won a landslide victory in 08. You all knew the crash was big..maybe you didn’t know it was as big as it turned out to be but that is no excuse for treating the economy as second fiddle behind healthcare. You all were overjoyed at having unbeatable control of the Congress and what you did with it was squander it on health care and it not only cost you the single payer you really wanted but it cost you the House in ’10 too. In ’12 it was only a holding pattern for you guys and it may cost you more in November this year.
    Had Obama told Pelosi and Reid to hold off on Healthcare until they could get the economy on some kind of solid track with ’10 in mind as the goal for significant improvements in the economy the political capitol you all walked into power with would have easily doubled and you would have built on your majority’s in Congress and your holy grail of single payer would have a shoe in instead of the desperate struggle that produced Obamacare which even many of your own peeps decry as far too little and far to weak.

    I believed then as I do now that had the focus been on the economy it would have recovered very fast and the jobs would have come back much sooner maybe by ’12
    I am a realist on this, you guys won the battle in 08…you then began throwing it away…almost instantly.

    You guys made a severe tactical error and snatched loss from the jaws of victory. Good job.

  31. Rincon says:

    Review your recent history Thomas. Tax cuts and hikes have not correlated with long term prosperity for at least 35 years.

  32. nyp says:

    Mr. Mitchell: the President’s economic stimulus plan did cut taxes. One-third of the stimulus consisted of tax cuts to individuals and businesses.

    Steve: You keep complaining that the President should have “focused” on the economy in 2010, but you keep declining to say what other specific policies he should have pursued. You know, a President is not a comic-book figure. He does not have the ability to affect policy changes by the sheer, laser-like power of his “focus”. If you think that the Obama Administration in 2010 neglected to take some action within their actual powers that would have brought the economy out of the Great Recession more quickly, tell us what you think they should have done. But keep in mind that by 2010 the Administration had already enacted tax cuts and other stimulative measures, had rescued the American Automotile industry, and had kept the financial sector from collapsing. And they were doing this in the face of the near-collapse of the European Union during the 2011-12 Euro Crisis.

  33. Steve says:

    “but you keep declining to say what other specific policies he should have pursued.”


    Obama, Pelosi and Reid were specifically pursuing Obamacare over economic action in response to the very obvious need. The things they did leading up to 2010 were small and weak at best and they admit it! You are being blinded by what you have chosen to see as success. And what you choose to see as success should have become clear to you it was a loss in 10 when you lost the House of Representatives!

    I SAID Obama should have placed health care on the side in favor of serious focus on the economy!

  34. nyp says:

    And what policy actions should that “focus on the economy” have led to? What economic actions should the President have taken?

  35. Steve says:

    As far as I am concerned simply focusing on the elephant in the living room would have been enough. There is no need to get lost in your weeds.

  36. Winston Smith says:

    O & Bernanke said it would be a “jobless recovery”. Geez, they got what the predicted, didn’t they? How? By “making it so”, in the parlance of Captain Picard…

    Sorry, my slight Trekkieness is showing 🙂

  37. Winston Smith says:

    Yeah, here’s something from one of those Alex Jones loonies:

    AKA, an Assistant Secretary of the Treasury under Reagan…

  38. Rincon says:

    Ignoring the cost of health care is ignoring the economy. When we’re spending 16% of our GDP on health care and should be spending 10% the result is a parasite sapping the energy from our economy every year. Making health care more efficient would boost the economy greatly. Unfortunately, Obamacare had little to reduce costs and the Republicans gutted what little cost reduction there was.

  39. […] course, party leader Harry Reid is pushing the amendment. Blame it on the Koch […]

  40. […] the greatest threat to our democracy that I have witnessed during my time in public service,” Reid said in a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting in June 2014. “The decisions by the Supreme Court have […]

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