Seventy-nine members of the U.S. Senate voted on Tuesday to move forward with a constitutional amendment which would overturn the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling.

The 2010 ruling found that the First Amendment prohibits the U.S. government from putting limits on corporations’ independent “political expenditures”—basically, the Court opened the money floodgates for the 2012 election, and all that come after it.

It’s been a contentious issue in the Senate over the last four years, as Democrats have led an effort to undo some of the damage that’s led to the creation of things like Super PACs that backed candidates but were technically unaffiliated with said candidate.

Anyway, 18 senators—all Republicans—voted against having any sort of discussion regarding Citizens United. One of them was, naturally, Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa), Pennsylvania’s hard-line right wing senator. He joined colleagues like Ted Cruz (R-Tx), Rand Paul (R-Ky) and Rick Scott (R-SC) in opposing talking about the issue in session.

Toomey’s vote isn’t surprising. He has spoken on the issue before, often likening overturning the amendment to killing freedom of speech.

“I can’t imagine why we would want to have a constitutional amendment to limit free speech,” Toomey said in 2012. “I thought that we have an amendment to Constitution for the exact opposite purpose—to guarantee free speech.”

This vote does not mean much of substance, yet. The Senate’s action will open up debate on getting rid of the ruling via legislative work—not actually getting rid of it. The Senate would have to vote to end debate with a 60-vote majority, then actually vote on the bill, which most assume will not happen. But given a majority of Americans support overturning the ruling, it could be a way to rejuvenate voters for November’s midterm elections.

MoveOn.org, a liberal nonprofit group, called the vote “huge,” adding: “It’s nothing short of amazing that [U.S. Sen.] Mitch McConnell and his fellow Republicans didn’t block this entirely—as they’ve done with nearly every other priority issue of most Americans, like the minimum wage and student debt.”

About The Author

Staff writer

Randy LoBasso is the winner of the Pennsylvania Newsmedia Association's 2014 Distinguished Writing Award for his news and politics coverage at Philadelphia Weekly. He has also contributed to Alt Ledes, Salon, The Guardian and PennLive.

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  1. 9/11 Morning Buzz | PoliticsPA

    […] Congress’ highest honor WHYY Newsworks: Voting machine challenge goes before PA. Supreme Court Phillynow.com: Toomey one of 18 senators voting to overturn Citizens United Philadelphia Weekly: What to follow […]


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