Harry Reid’s Attack on Free Speech

Senator Harry Reid plans to force a vote on legislation for a constitutional amendment giving Congress the power to regulate spending levels in federal campaigns. Reid said he’s pushing for the vote to combat what he claim’s an effort by the Koch brothers to “buy” the U.S. Senate this year.

“It’s unacceptable that the recent Supreme Court decisions have taken power away from the American voter, instead giving it to a select few of mega-billionaires,” Reid said on the Senate floor.

S.J. Resolution 19 would let Congress regulate the way money is raised and spent in federal campaigns, and let states do the same in statewide campaigns. It would also let Congress regulate spending on political action committees.

He also criticized the Supreme Court’s finding that spending money on campaigns is equal to free speech, and is not something government can regulate. Reid said if that’s true, that’s the same as saying poor people have less speech than the rich.

“If this unprecedented spending is free speech, where does that leave our middle class constituents, the poor? It leaves them out in the cold,” he said. “There should be no million-dollar entry fee to participation in our democracy.”

Reid’s office released a transcript of his planned remarks, much of it aimed once again at two private citizens. Here’s an excerpt:

“The Kochs’ bid for a hostile takeover of American democracy is calculated to make themselves even richer. Yet the Kochs and their Republican followers in Congress continue to assert that these hundreds of millions of dollars are free speech. For evidence of that, look no further than the Republican Leader, who has flat out said, ‘in our society, spending is speech.’…

This could, however, be another one of Reid’s infamous political smoke screens, as Obamacare is center stage in the courts again with yet another legal challenge aimed at derailing the Presidents signature law. But rather than going after the individual mandate, this newest suit challenges a legislative maneuver used by Reid to pass the bill.

The Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF) charge that Obamacare was first passed by the Senate and only later approved by the House in violation of the Constitution’s Origination Clause which reads: “All bills for raising revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with amendments as on other bills.”

The Obama administration rejects this argument.

“The Supreme Court has never invalidated an Act of Congress on the basis of the Origination Clause, and this suit presents no reason to break new ground,” Justice Department Attorney Alisa Klein wrote in her brief.

If the three judge panel agrees with PLF, the decision would invalidate Obamacare and send health care reform back to Congress for a do-over. But the judges agree with the administration, PLF lawyers are likely to petition the U.S. Supreme Court to look at the issue.

Unfortunately, one judges assigned to the case was appointed by Bill Clinton, the other two were appointed by President Obama.

Leading up to the vote on Obamacare, Reid used ‘shell bill,’ H.R. 3590 to satisfy the technical requirement that the legislation arrive from the House. That law, ‘Service Members Home Ownership Tax Act of 2009,’ offered tax credits to military members who were first-time homebuyers.

Reid eliminated the entire text of the six-page law and replaced it with the 2,000-plus page Obamacare bill. All that was left of the Home Ownership Tax Act was its bill number, H.R. 3590.

After winning Senate approval, the “amended” H.R. 3590 was sent to the House where the Democratic majority approved it. The bill was then sent to Obama who signed it into law in March 2010.

The Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of Obamacare in June of 2010.

“The Affordable Care Act is constitutional in part and unconstitutional in part. The individual mandate cannot be upheld as an exercise of Congress’s power under the Commerce Clause,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote. “That Clause authorizes Congress to regulate interstate commerce, not to order individuals to engage it. In this case, however, it is reasonable to construe what Congress has done as increasing taxes on those who have a certain amount of income, but choose to go without health insurance. Such legislation is within Congress’s power to tax.”

The tax penalty associated with the health care mandate is expected to raise $4 billion a year in general government revenue by 2017.

To make matters worse, Reid has hinted he might change Senate rules again to make it easier to approve President Barack Obama’s nominations over Republican opposition. Reid also indicated that he is mulling a change to the rules on behalf of Attorney General Eric Holder.

Reid said Holder called him to ask what can be done to speed up the process in the Senate for approving judicial nominations.

“It’s hard to fathom that the work of Attorney General Eric Holder and his department is being recklessly hindered by Republican obstruction,” Reid said.

Last year, Reid changed the rule allowing Democrats to advance Obama’s nominees in a procedural vote without needing any Republican votes. Prior to Reid’s decision, 60 votes were needed for a procedural vote.

Under current rules, Republicans still have the right to delay final votes on nominees by requiring the Senate to sit through blocks of time that are reserved for debate. He pointed out that the current rule call for up to 30 hours of debate before a circuit court judge can be approved, and eight hours of debate for U.S. attorneys and assistant U.S. attorneys.

Reid said these were “arbitrary” numbers and hinted they could be shortened.

“I don’t plan on changing the rules today again, but how much longer can we put up with this?” Reid complained.

“Rather than live up to their responsibilities, Republicans are pouting, they’re pouting,” he add. “They are saying, ‘oh, they changed the rules getting these judges done, so we’re going to agree to nothing.’”

This is the same Harry Reid who offered up a plan from the senate floor to have Republican members who support the Koch Brother’s begin wearing NASCAR-like logo’s on their clothing.

“NASCAR fans can easily find their favorite drivers by simply looking at the cars as they fly by, because there are corporate emblems on the hood of the car, in fact they’re all over the car,” Reid said. “For our clothing here in the Senate, we don’t bear commercials logos. Many Republicans might as well wear Koch insignias.”

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