Last week, the US Senate voted on a proposed constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision and put more regulations on corporate money in elections. A majority of senators voted in favor of the measure, with the final vote coming in at 54-42. Not a single Republican voted in favor of the amendment. In fact, they filibustered the measure. (However, since it was a constitutional amendment, it would have required a 2/3 majority –67 votes– in order to move forward.)
Texas senator John Cornyn was one of the 42 Republicans who voted against the proposed amendment. But there was one Texas Republican who didn’t join him–Senator Ted Cruz.
It’s not that Cruz has remained silent on the issue of Citizens United, in fact, quite the opposite is true. Cruz has been his usual hyperbolic self, saying that the amendment would “repeal the free speech protections of the First Amendment” and predicting that it would cause a dictatorial hellscape where Congress would have “absolute authority to regulate the political speech of every single American with no limitations whatsoever.”
Of course, these assertions are patently untrue. The amendment would only give the government the ability to regulate the amount of corporate money that is spent on campaigns. Limiting corporate spending actually increases the influence that American people can have on elections, since the vast majority of citizens don’t have the ability to spend millions of dollars influencing a race.
As a lawyer, Ted Cruz should know better than to falsely misrepresent the US Constitution. But that hasn’t stopped him from making outrageous statements like arguing that overturning Citizens United would make political commentary on Saturday Night Live illegal.
And yet, despite his constant fearmongering around the issue, Ted Cruz did not actually vote with his fellow Republicans on the constitutional amendment last week. Instead, he skipped the vote entirely. You would think that if the entire future of the First Amendment was really at risk, Cruz would make the time to be on the Senate floor to vote to protect it. Instead, he evidently had something better to do. (Perhaps he’s gone fishing with Dan Patrick? Or maybe there was something going on in Iowa that was too important for him to miss?)
If Ted Cruz is going to spend his time scaring Texans into thinking their right to free speech is in danger of disappearing, he should put his money where his mouth is and actually be in the Senate to vote on the bill. But as Ted Cruz has proven time and time again, he’s happy to talk a big game, but unwilling to take action. Making extreme statements may endear him to the Tea Partiers he thinks will get him to the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, but it’s bad for the Texans he claims to represent, and for the Senate as a whole.
Sara E. Smith, the State Director of the Texas Public Interest Research Group (TexPIRG), released the following statement on what the Senate vote on the constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United means for Texans:
- “Today’s vote was an incredible milestone in the fight to reclaim our democracy. The Citizens United decision unleashed a tide of big money from mega-donors and super PACs into our elections, which has threatened to drown out the voices of ordinary Americans. In the 2012 elections, just 32 super PAC donors spent as much as all 3.7 million small donors to Mitt Romney and President Obama combined, and year after year, we’ve seen campaign spending records shattered.
- But far from accepting this as a new status quo, Americans have been fighting back. In just a few short years, 16 states and more than 550 cities and localities across the country have enacted resolutions calling on Congress to pass an amendment to overturn Citizens United. The Austin City Council, through a passage of resolution in 2013, have also called for change. Today, a majority of the U.S. Senate answered that call.
- Amending the Constitution was never meant to be easy, but we know that the public overwhelmingly supports getting big money out of politics. Today’s vote is just the beginning, and marks a big step forward in the movement to reclaim our democracy.
- We also know there are things that should be done right now to amplify the voices of small donors, which would make sure out-of-district mega-donors aren’t the only way to finance campaigns. Congress and state and local governments should establish small donor empowerment programs right away.”
Though overturning Citizens United is what’s right for Texans, unless it can get him to the presidency, it’s unlikely Ted Cruz will do it anytime soon.