This proposal would give members of Congress the power to silence the groups or organizations that threaten their re-election. …Congress could tell Tennessee Right to Life that it can’t advertise to protect the rights of the unborn. Congress could decide that such speech should be restricted or prohibited because incumbents fear it is really an endorsement of a candidate for office.” – Lamar Alexander
Press Release, WASHINGTON, Sept. 9 – U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said today that a proposal supported by 48 Senate Democrats and the president would give Congress the power to decide “which Americans can speak in elections, what they can say, when they can say it, and how they say it.”
“Ordinary Tennesseans would lose their ability to broadcast their views, but billionaires could buy a TV station or a newspaper and say whatever they think, and millionaire candidates can fund their own campaigns,” Alexander said. “Billionaires and millionaires would be the only ones exempt from the gag rule proposed by the Democrats.”
S.J. Res. 19 is a Senate resolution supported by 48 Senate Democrats and President Obama to change the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to allow Congress and states to limit the raising and spending of money to influence elections.
Alexander detailed how the Democrats could limit the free speech of Tennesseans under the proposal. Excerpts from his speech follow:
“Congress could tell a gun owner in Johnson City, Tennessee, that he or she can't spend money to advocate in defense of Second Amendment rights if that speech falls too close it an election and threatens to influence the campaign of incumbents. Or, similarly, Congress might tell Tennessee Right to Life--you can't advertise to protect the rights of the unborn. Congress could decide that such a speech could be restricted or prohibited because incumbents feel it is endorsement of a candidate for political offices.
“Also they can seek to stop new political movements like the Tea Party by placing unachievable conditions on their ability to raise and spend funds on behalf of candidates they support. They could do this under the guise of protecting donors by saying you can't receive donations unless you've been successful in a previous election. Or, you have a real chance of being successful in a future election. The decision of whether a new political movement was viable would of course be made by their political competitor.
“The majority leader has prevented Tennesseans, for example, from having their say through their senators for years now, using the gag rule in this body to keep amendments from being considered and voted on. Senators have listened to their constituents and proposed amendments on Obamacare, taxes, the National Labor Relations Board, Iran, Iraq, etc., and they are told by the Democratic leadership that they won’t get votes. I've said on this floor many times, it is like being invited to join the Grand Ole Opry and not being allowed to sing. But the consequences are much more serious than that.
“It is not just my amendment or my colleague Senator Corker's amendment. It is not just Tennesseans' amendments. It is the voters of every state who have sent us here to have a say on their behalf. The senator from Wyoming, Senator Barrasso, has counted that since July of 2013 only 14 Republican amendments and nine Democratic amendments have received votes. That's an astounding number. There are 100 senators here representing more than 300 million Americans. This is said to be the world's greatest deliberative body.
“It’s shocking we're standing here to debate such a proposal. Every American ought to be concerned about this proposal to amend the Bill of Rights and the free speech clause in the First Amendment. They should be deeply concerned that the senate majority leader and his gag rule have effectively silenced their elected representatives here in the senate. And now he wants to silence them.”