Senator Showdown: Reid v. McConnell in Campaign Finance Fight at Panel Hearing

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell smiles on Capitol Hill on Tuesday after his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee. AP/Manuel Balce Ceneta

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell faced off Tuesday to pitch their respective views about recent changes in campaign finance legislation to the Senate Judiciary Committee, with Reid pushing a constitutional amendment to offset the impact of big money in politics and McConnell pushing back.

Since the Supreme Court paved the way for the corporations-are-people-too camp, as well as deep-pocketed donors, to put their money where the mouths of voters should go in our dwindling democracy, Reid and other lawmakers proposed a measure to counter these latest blatant shifts toward corporatocracy. McConnell came prepared with accusations of partisanship and a confident attitude at Tuesday’s panel session (via the New York Daily News):

“Everyone on this panel knows this proposal will never pass Congress,” McConnell said.

“This is a political exercise to stir up one party’s political base so they’ll show up in November by complaining loudly about certain Americans exercising their free speech and associational rights.”

It was the first time the Senate’s top two party leaders have testified before the judiciary panel on a policy matter, said committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.).

Reid is a lead sponsor of a constitutional amendment that would give Congress more authority to regulate federal campaign spending.

The goal is to reverse court rulings which allowed unlimited corporate and union spending in elections and which struck down limits on the total amount donors can give to federal candidates and parties.

Meanwhile, spotting a chance to make a literary reference as well as headlines, Sen. Ted Cruz invoked novelist Ray Bradbury’s dystopian vision by pronouncing, “Ray Bradbury would be astonished because we are seeing ‘Fahrenheit 451’ Democrats today,” adding that Reid’s amendment is “about power” and “about politicians silencing the citizens.” The really wealthy ones, at any rate.

–Posted by Kasia Anderson

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