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A Crisis to Address: Why the Senate's Discussing a Democracy Amendment

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Cross-posted from The Nation



The political crisis of confidence created by an activist Supreme Court's decisions in cases such as Citizens United v. FEC and McCutcheon v. FCC is beginning -- finally -- to garner appropriate consideration from the US Senate. That's important. What's even more important is that it is focused on the proper response to the crisis: amending the US Constitution in order to restore the right of citizens and their elected representatives to organize elections where the vote matters more than the dollar.

On Tuesday, Illinois Senator Dick Durbin, the chamber's assistant majority leader, chaired what Public Citizen identifies as "the first-ever hearing by the Senate Judiciary Committee on the need to amend the Constitution to overturn egregious US Supreme Court rulings like Citizens United and McCutcheon, which gave corporations and the ultra-wealthy the green light to spend unlimited amounts of money to influence elections."

Durbin was an engaged chair of the hearing by the Constitution Subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee, having already declared, "It's increasingly clear that the only way to really reform our system is to pass a constitutional amendment to regulate how we finance our elections."

The senator is right. And the American people are supportive of his position; 16 states and more than 500 communities have formally asked Congress to back an amendment to clarify that, despite what the Supreme Court might imagine, corporations are not people and money is not speech. Still, the significance of this hearing, which comes as Senate Democratic leaders are talking about scheduling an amendment vote, ought not be underestimated. Nor should the fact that the number of senators supporting a constitiutional amendment is rapidly approaching a majority.

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John Nichols, a pioneering political blogger, has written the Online Beat since 1999. His posts have been circulated internationally, quoted in numerous books and mentioned in debates on the floor of Congress.

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