The Silver Lining of a Very Bad Proposed Amendment

This week, Senate majority leader Harry Reid will bring to the floor an amendment to the Constitution that would permit Congress and the states to target the resources that certain people use to speak about candidates and issues at election time.   A commentator recently complained that bringing this amendment to the floor wastes the Senate’s time, because the proposal has no chance of securing the supermajorities it would need to be passed and ratified. I nevertheless would welcome a prolonged debate.

My reason is not that I favor the amendment.  Giving Congress the power to send people to jail for messaging at election time seems to me the most pernicious effort to suppress free speech by the federal legislature since the Alien and Sedition Acts.  Prohibiting expenditures on political speech curtails the opportunity for citizens to make their voices heard and for other citizens to learn what their representatives are doing. And allowing members of Congress to determine the content of such restrictions turns the First Amendment’s charter of freedom into a delegation for regulation by self-interested regulators.

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Scalia and Ginsburg on Constitutional Amendments

There is an interesting short piece on Justices Scalia and Ginsburg and their views of constitutional amendments.  This short news story touches upon a variety of issues that I have discussed at this blog and in scholarship. Scalia writes "I certainly would not want a constitutional convention," Scalia told moderator Marvin Kalb. "Whoa! Who knows what would come out of it?" But, he explained, he once calculated what percentage of the population could prevent an amendment to the Constitution and found it was less than 2 percent. "It ought to be hard, but not that hard," Scalia said. The fear of a constitutional…

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Busting Through Our Dysfunctional Political Consensus With the Wisdom of Alexander Hamilton

For six-plus months, Greve, you’ve been yapping and yammering about the institutional causes of our political and economic malaise. Let’s say you’re right: what’s your solution?

I’m deeply suspicious of anyone bearing solutions (including myself), but here’s an idea:

Amendment XXVIII. For any fiscal year in which federal outlays exceed federal revenues, the IRS shall assess and collect a national head tax sufficient to cover the shortfall unless two-thirds of both houses of Congress vote to suspend the tax for that fiscal year.

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