TIME Campaign Finance

Reid Calls for Constitutional Amendment to Limit Campaign Spending

“There should be no million-dollar entry fee for participation in our democracy,” Reid said on the Senate floor Thursday

Correction appended, May 15

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Thursday he’ll seek a constitutional amendment giving Congress the authority to limit campaign spending by outside groups that can now raise and spend unlimited sums of money to influence elections.

“There should be no million-dollar entry fee for participation in our democracy,” Reid said on the Senate floor.

With the announcement, Reid threw his support behind a proposed constitutional amendment originally put forward by Sens. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) that would override recent Supreme Court rulings equating political spending with speech protected under the First Amendment. Spending on elections by outside groups, including super PACs but also nonprofit groups that spend heavily on political messaging, has skyrocketed in recent years as the courts have effectively prohibited Congress from limiting political spending.

“The Constitution does not give corporations a vote, and the constitution does not give dollar bills a vote,” Reid said. “Republicans seem to think billionaires, corporations and special interests should be allowed to drown out the voices of all Americans. That’s wrong and it should end.”

The Nevada Democrat has promised to bring the amendment before the Senate Judiciary Committee in the coming weeks and to a vote on the Senate floor shortly after that. Needless to say, the effort to pass a constitutional amendment limiting campaign spending faces extremely long odds. Not only must it be approved by two-thirds of both houses of Congress, it would also have to be ratified by three-fourths of state legislatures.

Reid’s support for the amendment marks an escalation in the Democrats’ political strategy moving into the 2014 midterm elections, as they seek to cast Republicans as beholden to big money and special interests, even as Democrats outpace the GOP in Super PAC fundraising.

Correction: The original version of this story misstated the proportion of state legislatures needed to ratify a constitutional amendment.

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