Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Historic Move to Amend the Constitution by the Senate

UPDATE: On September 11, forty-two senators, all Republicans, voted no. Udall noted the Republican minority was able to “filibuster this measure and instead choose to support a broken system that prioritizes corporations and billionaires over regular voters.”

Senator Tom Udall, New Mexico Democrat, in June proposed his amendment to address some of the  results of the Supreme Court’s interventions in with the recents Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission and McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission decisions, as well as the 1976 decision in Buckley v. Valeo.

The Republican opposition effectively blocked further consideration of the amendment proposal, since sixty votes were needed to end debate and force a vote. And, even if the Republicans had not filibustered the initiative, actual passage of an amendment would have required a two-thirds vote.

Among the 42 Republicans voting no was Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who in the past had been a campaign finance reform advocate. Citizens United decision found, for the first time, that the First Amendment’s free speech protections guaranteed corporations and unions the right to spend unlimited sums of money on political advertisements. McCain denounced the ruling as the Supreme Court’s “worst decision ever.”

(PR) - Senate Joint Resolution 19 is a proposed Constitutional Amendment to overturn Citizens United, but it doesn’t address corporate constitutional rights at all. Move to Amend has vowed that we will not support any halfway measures that don't amend the Constitution in two necessary ways:

1) Make clear that only human beings, not corporations have Constitutional rights;

2) Make clear that money is not speech and campaign spending can be regulated.

Tens of thousands of volunteers across the nation have been building a grassroots movement over the past four years from the bottom up. This movement came from everyday people taking this issue to their city governments, to town meeting debates, to candidate forums, to newspaper opinion pages, and to the ballot box directly. Nearly 600 cities and towns have now passed amendment resolutions.

Polling shows 80% of the American public believes that corporations should not have the same rights as people. State legislatures have been pressured to stand up as well, with 16 states passing resolutions calling for an amendment. “Ending Corporate Personhood” was a major theme in the demands that came from Occupy encampments across the country.

The plan is that this amendment will get a vote in the Senate this year -- before election season. We cannot allow a proposal that doesn’t address corporate constitutional rights to get traction -- the amendment must match the demand of our movement: “A Corporation is Not a Person! Money is Not Free Speech!”

—> Move to Amend

Historic First Step by the Senate

The Senate just voted to advance a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. For the first time in history, every single senator will be forced to say—on the record—whether or not they think money is speech.

This is momentous. It's a once-in-a-generation opportunity. It's nothing short of amazing that Mitch McConnell and his fellow Republicans didn't block this bill entirely—as they've done with nearly every other priority issue of most Americans, like the minimum wage and student debt. 

We've built enough grassroots pressure that they couldn't squash this. McConnell is trying to make lemonade out of this—he claims that he welcomes the debate. But 80 percent of American oppose Citizens United. Even 72 percent of Republicans think the Supreme Court got it wrong.

So now, it's on. The Senate will debate money in politics this week—and a full vote is expected Thursday. 

Undoing Citizens United—which requires a 2/3 vote in both Houses of Congress or a constitutional convention convened by the states—won't be easy and won't happen right away. But the Senate just voted 79-18 to begin debate! And the fight to end the stranglehold that big corporations and lobbyists have on our democracy is one we have to win. But we can only do that if we keep the momentum going now, through election day, and beyond. 

We've already launched thousands of calls and cut ads in key states. Now we'll escalate our pressure on senators before they vote—and prepare a big ad campaign that goes after senators who vote the wrong way Thursday. And then keep going.

The real goal—for this election and beyond—is to start kicking out the politicians in both parties who are carrying water for the big banks, the insurance companies, and other lobbies. 

In big moments like this one—when MoveOn members come together in big ways—amazing things can happen.

So if you feel it in your bones that this is a special moment like I do, then I hope you'll get involved. Our collective power matters. When 8 million MoveOn members join together to tackle big problems like corruption and money in politics, we're unstoppable.

MoveOn members have overcome long odds before, and won.

In 2006, Washington corruption was at a high-water mark. There was the Jack Abramoff scandal (which led to 21 corruption convictions!), no-bid contracts in the Iraq war, and a Republican House that couldn't even tackle price gouging at the pump after Hurricane Katrina. Depressing stuff.

So what did MoveOn members do? We helped take over the House of Representatives! 

MoveOn members made 7 million phone calls, organized 7,500 house parties, and launched 6,000 in-district events. We held politicians accountable for Washington corruption. And in dozens of congressional districts, we won.

But one step forward, two steps back. In 2010, the Citizens United decision was a devastating leap backwards—a punch in the gut. We lost the House to the Tea Party, too.

But MoveOn members didn't give up, not even then. We launched a huge campaign to rein in the power of big corporations in Washington. Tens of thousands of us stepped up to the plate in bigger ways than ever before, volunteering our time and energy and dollars to fight hard against the Tea Party tide.

We grew bigger than we'd ever been before—8 million members. And in 2012, we re-elected Barack Obama. And we began paving a long-term path to end Washington corruption and restore our democracy.

We can only do this together—as a community—because we're independent, we're massive (with 8 million members), and we're in it for the long haul.

We'll start with public accountability for senators who vote to oppose overturning Citizens United on Thursday. Then, we need to keep fighting the destructive influence of money in politics through election season and beyond.

I won't lie to you: We've still got several more years of campaigning ahead of us. But this is a huge moment.

One big reason to keep fighting this fight right now is that while some really important things have happened during Obama's presidency—like the health care law—it's become pretty clear that the fundamental change we all want will be impossible until we end the stranglehold that big corporations and lobbyists have on our democracy.

But perhaps the best reason to keep fighting is that—after years of struggle—something beautiful has happened in the fight to take on money in politics. We're starting to win.

Today's vote to begin debate is one giant leap forward from where we were just four years ago, when the Citizens United decision came down, and the House was taken over by the Tea Party.

—> Mark, Jo, Manny, Ben O., and the rest of the team

Congress has considered "approximately 11,372 amendments" from 1789 through December 31, 2008, the most recent tally available, according to the Statistics and Lists section of the United States Senate website.

Why is it "approximately" 11,372? The site says that's because of a number of factors, including inadequate indexing of legislation in the early years of Congress.

Of those 11,372 proposed amendments, only 27 have been approved by Congress and ratified by the states. Why such a low success rate? Senate Historian Donald Ritchie told us that amending the Constitution is "an extremely complicated process" and an amendment "essentially only gets adopted when there’s a broad national consensus on the issue."

—> Edited by Anibal Ibarra

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