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Mr. CRUZ. Mr. President, at a time of extraordinary challenges across the globe and here at home, we are not gathered in the Senate to discuss how to confront the threat of ISIS. We are not gathered in the Senate to discuss how to prevent Putin's Russia from invading its neighbors. We are not gathered in the Senate today to discuss how to solve the humanitarian crisis at the border with some 90,000 unaccompanied children coming into the country this year. We are not gathered in the Senate today to discuss how to bring back jobs and economic growth, or how to correct the fact that the Obama economy has produced the lowest labor force participation since 1978--92 million Americans not working today. And we are not gathered in the Senate to discuss how to stop the disaster that has been ObamaCare, which has caused millions of Americans to lose their jobs, to be forced into part-time work, to lose their health insurance, to lose their doctors, and to see their premiums skyrocket. No.
Instead, we are gathered today in the Senate for a very different topic. The majority leader and the Democratic majority in this Senate have determined that the most important priority this Senate has, which we are spending the entire week addressing, is the proposal of 49 Democrats to repeal the free speech provisions of the First Amendment. That is not hyperbole. Typically, when Americans hear that Members of the Senate are proposing repealing the free speech protections of the First Amendment, the usual reaction is a gasp of disbelief. Could we really have entered a world so extreme that our common ground no longer even includes the First Amendment of the Constitution?
The First Amendment protects our most foundational rights. Yet, under the amendment we are debating today that 49 Democrats have signed their name to, the First Amendment would, in effect, have crossed out freedom of speech. Why? Because 49 Democrats have cosponsored a constitutional amendment that is currently on the floor of the Senate, being voted on this week, that would give Congress blanket authority to regulate political speech.
From the dawn of our Republic we have respected the rights of citizens to express their views. It is the right upon which every other civil liberty is predicated. But in the Democratic Senate of 2014, citizens' free speech rights are tools for partisan warfare.
This proposal before the Senate is, bar none, the most radical proposal that has been considered by the Senate in the time I have served. If this proposal were to pass, its effects would be breathtaking. It would be the most massive intrusion on civil liberties and expansion of Federal Government power in modern times.
Let's talk about how and why that is the case. The text of the amendment that is currently in the Bill of Rights says, Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech. So right now we operate under a First Amendment that says Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech--not some laws; not laws that some politicians think would help them politically; but no law abridging the freedom of speech is what our First Amendment says.
What would the new First Amendment say? Well, according to our Democratic friends, the new First Amendment would have two sections. The first section says, Congress and States may regulate and set reasonable limits on the raising and spending of money by candidates and others to influence elections. Now, "reasonable.'' Who could oppose reasonable limits? Isn't that the essence of reasonableness? Perhaps I have forgotten my spectacles, but I don't see in the current First Amendment, Congress can make reasonable restrictions on the freedom of speech. It doesn't say that. It says Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech.
What is the difference? The First Amendment is not about reasonable speech. The First Amendment was enacted to protect unreasonable speech. I, for one, certainly don't want our speech limited to speech that elected politicians in Washington think is reasonable.
There was a time this body thought the Alien and Sedition Acts prohibiting criticizing the government were reasonable. There is a reason the Constitution doesn't say let's trust politicians to determine what speech is reasonable and what isn't.
I would note the Supreme Court has long made clear the First Amendment is all about unreasonable speech. For example, when the Nazis wanted to march on Skokie, IL--Nazi speeches, the paradigm example of unreasonable speech; it is hateful, bigoted, ignorant speech--the Supreme Court said the Nazis have a constitutional right to march down the street in Skokie, IL, with their hateful, bigoted, ignorant speech. Now every one of us then has a moral obligation to condemn it as hateful and bigoted and ignorant. But the First Amendment is all about saying government doesn't get to decide what you say is reasonable and what you say is not.
The First Amendment is all about saying we will not censor American citizens. What is this amendment about? Saying the Federal Government now has the power to censor each and every American who dares speak about politics. So if a person has a political view at home, they better hope politicians in Washington think that view is reasonable. I will tell my colleagues that very little of what we do in this town is reasonable and the idea that elected politicians would seek to arrogate power to themselves to censor the citizens is anathema to who we are as a country.
This bill, if adopted, raises three simple questions--questions I raised at three hearings in the Judiciary Committee and in the Constitution subcommittee, and I am the ranking member on the Constitution subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee. We have had extensive debates on this amendment. I wish to pose three simple questions that I would ask every Democrat who has put his name to this--and I notice, sadly, my friend, the Presiding Officer, is one of them, but he didn't serve on the committee. So I would ask him to consider these questions, and I would hope every Democrat who has put his name to this, upon thinking about it, will have second thoughts and pull his name off.
So here are three questions every one of us should ask. No. 1, should Congress have the constitutional authority to ban movies?
No. 2, should Congress have the constitutional authority to ban books?
And No. 3, should Congress have the constitutional authority to ban the NAACP from speaking about politics?
My answer to these three questions is unequivocally, unquestionably no. Yet every single Democrat who has put his name on this amendment has no choice but to answer yes to all three of these questions.
I posed these questions in the Constitution subcommittee. When I posed them to the committee, the chairman of the committee, Senator Durbin, gaveled the hearing shut because he could not answer those questions. But at the full Judiciary Committee hearing, I was told by my Democratic friends: This is hyperbole. This is exaggeration. We don't intend to ban movies or books or the NAACP. My response in those hearings was that this is the Senate. Forty-nine Senators are proposing an amendment to the Bill of Rights. The inchoate intentions that may be buried in the hearts of each and every Senator are utterly irrelevant to the question. The question is, What is the language that would be inserted into the Bill of Rights of our Constitution?
Let's look to the language. Section 2 of this amendment says Congress and the States shall have the power to implement and enforce this article by appropriate legislation and may distinguish between natural persons and corporations or other artificial entities created by law, including by prohibiting such entities from spending money to influence elections.
That is very specific language that would now become part of our Bill of Rights. It is breathtaking. It is staggering in its scope.
I wish to take these one at a time because the Democrats, I am sure--all 49 Democrats--say, We don't intend to ban movies, books, or ban the NAACP. Well, let's look to the language they put their names to.
No. 1, let's start with movies. We have all heard a lot about the Citizens United case. In fact, we remember President Obama during the State of the Union hectoring the Supreme Court of the United States for the Citizens United case.
Relatively few people know the facts that underlie the Citizens United case. The facts in those circumstances are that a nonprofit corporation made a movie critical of Hillary Clinton, and for making a movie critical of Hillary Clinton the Obama administration tried to impose massive fines on them. Citizens United, which President Obama and the Senate Democrats decry as the most pernicious thing in modern times, it seems, was all about the government trying to fine a movie maker for daring to make a movie about Hillary Clinton.
Listen, let me be very clear. There are movie makers--Michael Moore's movies I think are complete nonsense. To quote the bard, they are full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. Michael Moore has a right to keep making those movies over and over again and spewing his nonsense as long as he likes. The First Amendment protects his right to be wrong.
And as a simple legal matter, would this amendment give Congress the constitutional authority to ban movies?
Paramount Pictures is a corporation. Under the text of the amendment, what could Congress do to a corporation? It can prohibit--and that is the language in the amendment--it can prohibit the corporation from spending money to influence elections. So if a movie talks about politics, Congress can make it a criminal offense. Go down to Hollywood, take the producers, the directors, the actors and everyone involved in the movie and put them in handcuffs. That is breathtaking.
Now, again, the Democratic Senators say, We don't intend to do that. Then why did they submit a constitutional amendment to the Bill of Rights that says Congress can prohibit Paramount Pictures from speaking about politics? That means Congress can ban movies.
How about the second question: Should Congress be able to ban books? That is an extreme question by anyone's measure. Surely, nobody in Washington is talking about banning books. Well, if we assumed that, our assumption would be wrong. Indeed, during the oral argument in Citizens United, the Supreme Court asked the Obama administration: Your position is that under the Constitution, the sale for the book itself could be prohibited. The answer from the Obama administration: Yes, if the book contained the functional equivalent of express advocacy. The Obama administration went in front of the Supreme Court and argued: We have the power to ban books.
This is in the record. This is in the official transcript. People can go and listen to this argument, listen to the Obama administration say they believe the Federal Government has the ability to ban books from your house. That is breathtaking.
I recognize in today's partisan society there are some people who may be
watching these remarks who aren't inclined to believe me. They might say: Listen, you are a Republican. You are a conservative. And coming from the spot in the political aisle that I do, I don't tend to trust Republicans or conservatives.
I understand that. I would tell you that if you don't believe me, perhaps you would believe that famed rightwing organization, the ACLU. The ACLU said this amendment, to which 49 Democrats have signed their names--what would it do? It would ``fundamentally `break' the Constitution and endanger civil rights and civil liberties for generations.'' I said a few minutes ago that this was the most radical legislation that has been put before this body. Why is that? Because it is legislation the ACLU says would ``fundamentally `break' the Constitution.'' Breaking the Constitution is no minor matter, and endangering civil rights and civil liberties for generations ought to concern every Member of this body.
One still might say: Surely banning books is hyperbole.
Well, if you don't believe me, the ACLU in writing told the Senate this amendment--to which 49 Democrats have put their names--would give Congress the power to ban Hillary Clinton's new book, ``Hard Choices.'' I want that to sink in for a moment. Forty-nine Democrats have just put their names to a constitutional amendment, and the ACLU rightly tells us that the express language of the amendment gives the government the power to ban Hillary Clinton's new book, ``Hard Choices.''
I have that letter from the ACLU. I also have a subsequent letter from the ACLU doing something which they haven't done before and which I don't know they will do again--thanking me and thanking all of us who have been fighting against this amendment for standing up for civil liberties. It is truly a shame the Democratic Party is not among them.
I ask unanimous consent to have printed in the Record both of the letters from the ACLU I referred to earlier.
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Mr. CRUZ. The third question every Senator who has put his name to this amendment must answer is this: Should Congress have the constitutional authority to ban the NAACP from speaking about politics? Well, why is that? Because the NAACP is a corporation. We hear the word ``corporation,'' and we tend to think of ExxonMobil, Walmart, or what have you, but the NAACP is a corporation. What could Congress do under this amendment, under the explicit language of this amendment? Congress could prohibit the NAACP from speaking about politics.
Let me state some other corporations Congress would have the constitutional authority to silence. The ACLU is a corporation. The AARP--the American Association of Retired Persons--is a corporation. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is a corporation. Amnesty International is a corporation. Americans United for Separation of Church and State is a corporation. The Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders is a corporation. The National Organization for Women is a corporation. The Center for Reproductive Rights is a corporation. The Sierra Club is a corporation. La Raza is a corporation. NARAL is a corporation. Planned Parenthood is a corporation. Moveon.org is a corporation. The Human Rights Campaign is a corporation. Greenpeace is a corporation.
People will note that every one I listed is a group that in our political discourse is often associated with being on the left. Many of those groups are not particular fans of mine as an elected official, and that is their right. Indeed, it is their right to scream from the mountaintops their criticism of my political positions. I will defend their right to criticize me or any other Member of this body all day long because the Bill of Rights says Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech.
Forty-nine Democrats just said that every organization I read--that it should be constitutional for Congress to prohibit them from speaking about politics.
It seems to me that when we return to our home States, every Senate Democrat who put his or her name to this amendment should expect to answer questions from citizens: Senator, why did you vote for a constitutional amendment to silence my free speech rights? That is a question we should all expect.
I would like to address a couple of red herrings in this debate because there are arguments put forth by the Democrats who say: No, no, no. Pay no attention to the text of the amendment we have introduced. Pay no attention to the fact that it would give Congress the power to ban movies, books, and to silence the NAACP. Pay no attention to any of that. It is something else.
There are three red herrings that are tossed forward.
First, money is not speech. How many times have we heard that over and over in floor speeches? Yesterday and today Democrats have stood and said: Money is not speech. Money is not speech. It has been repeated over and over. It is a good talking point. It is simply, on its face, demonstrably false. It is certainly true that all money is not speech.
If you go out and buy a Ferrari, that is not speech, but if you go out and erect a billboard and pay money to put up a billboard that says ``Senator Joe Manchin is a terrific guy,'' that is speech. It takes money to do that. They don't put up billboards with pixie dust. It actually takes some dollars to erect that billboard and to express that speech.
If you decide you want to run a radio ad saying that Senator so-and-so is terrible or wonderful, they don't run radio ads just because you asked ``pretty please.'' It takes money.
Let's say you want to run a television ad. It takes money.
Let's say you want to launch a Web site. Have you ever launched a Web site for free?
Let's say you are a little old lady who wants to put a yard sign on your front yard, and it is going to take $5 to buy some poster board and a stick and some crayons and markers and write: I love the First Amendment; I love free speech. That takes money.
The Federalist Papers were the essence of speech, and it took money to print them. Thomas Paine's ``Common Sense''--it took money to print it. It took money to print pamphlets.
Everyone in the tech community--and I would note that all of our Democratic friends and sponsors of this amendment almost to a person go routinely to the tech community and say: Give us money. Give us campaign contributions.
Every Senate Democrat should expect the tech community to say: Wait a second. Why did you vote for a constitutional amendment to give Congress the power to regulate every Web site in America?
If a Web site talks about politics, this amendment gives Congress the power to regulate that Web site.
Listen, I understand there are Members in this body on both sides of the aisle who find it really pesky when citizens dare criticize us. If you don't want to be criticized, don't run for office. Democracy is messy.
I guarantee there is no one in this country who truly believes money is not speech. It is a talking point, but those examples are unquestionably speech, and they have been from the very first days of our Republic.
A second canard is that corporations are not people. That is often said. Citizens United said that corporations are people.
Of course corporations are not people, but that is not the right question. It never was the question. Nobody thinks corporations are people. They don't breathe, they don't walk, and they are not human beings. The question is, Do corporations have rights under our Constitution? Again, I guarantee that every person in this Chamber and every person in the gallery believes the answer to that question is yes. If they don't, the New York Times is a corporation. Do we really think the New York Times has no First Amendment rights?
If the canard were true--corporations are not people, so they don't have rights--Congress could pass a law tomorrow that says the New York Times can never again criticize any Republican Member of Congress. I think the paper would probably go out of publication if it had to remove that from its content.
But it, of course, cannot. Why can't it? Because corporations have rights. Every one of us knows that. We would be horrified. That legislation would be blatantly unconstitutional. Why? Because the New York Times has a First Amendment right to speak about politics however it likes, whether wrongheaded or right-headed.
The groups I mentioned before--the NAACP is a corporation. I challenge any Senator to stand and say the NAACP has no First Amendment rights. But every Senator who has said on this Senate floor that corporations aren't people, that they have no rights, has said the NAACP has no constitutional rights--if you were a first-year law student and put that answer in any constitutional law class in the country, you would get an F. It wouldn't be a D-plus or a D-minus; it would be an F. It is an obviously blatantly false statement. Yet 49 Democrats rely on it to justify trying to gut the First Amendment.
The third red herring the Democrats in this body point to is they paint a specter of evil billionaires coming to steal our democracy.
We have all heard of our friends the Koch brothers--in part because the majority leader has launched an unprecedented slander campaign on two private citizens. Almost on a daily basis the majority leader stands and demagogues two private citizens who have committed the sin of creating hundreds of thousands of jobs, being successful in the private sector, and then exercising their First Amendment rights to speak out about the grave challenges facing this country.
If one Member of this body impugns the integrity of another Member of this body, we can rise on a point of personal privilege. I ask the Presiding Officer, where is the point of personal privilege for a private citizen when the majority leader drags his name through the mud day after day?
What Senator Reid is doing to two private citizens who are fighting to exercise their free speech rights is reprehensible. It is an embarrassment to this institution. Yet perhaps one might say there is some truth to the matter. We are told these nefarious brothers are responsible for almost everything bad in the world, so it must be that they are playing a huge role in our body politic.
Well, if you go look at OpenSecrets, which compiles campaign giving from 1989 to 2014, so for the past 25 years--and it compiles them from the biggest givers down to the smallest givers--if you look at first 16 names on that list--I have heard what our Democratic Members of this body have said: There are evil, nefarious Republicans trying to steal our democracy. And the implication is that they are backing Republicans. So my assumption is, as I look at the list of the top donors, the top 16--how many of them give predominantly to Republicans? Well, one would assume, given how great the magnitude is, that it has to be a lot of them, probably all of them, or if not all of them, most of them--at least half of them.
Mr. President, do you know how many of the top 16 groups give predominantly to Republicans? Zero. The top 16 political donors in this country all give either overwhelmingly to Democrats or at best evenly between the two parties. You have to fall to No. 17 to find a group that gives more heavily to Republicans than to Democrats. Now, that is curious given the story that is being told by our Democratic friends about these evil Republican billionaires stealing democracy. Gosh, the top 16 donors are not Republicans.
And how about the Koch brothers who we are told are somewhat like the Grinch who stole Christmas? Where do they fall? We have to go down to No. 59 on the list to find Koch Industries.
But perhaps you believe there is something to this claim of secret money. That too is a red herring. The Federal Election Commission estimates that over $7 billion was spent in the 2012 election cycle. We have heard from Democrat after Democrat after Democrat that secret money--money where the donors are not disclosed--is this enormous problem in our democracy that justifies gutting the First Amendment. So of that $7 billion, I assume a lot of that is secret money. Well, if you were to assume that, you would be wrong. The Center for Responsive Politics estimates that in 2012 about $315 million was spent by groups that do not disclose all of their donors. That is less than 4.5 percent of all the political speech in 2012.
So this entire effort to gut the First Amendment, to give Congress the power to ban movies, books, and the NAACP from speaking about politics is justified because of 4.5 percent of political spending, a whole bunch of which is being spent to help Democrats. Those are the facts. As John Adams famously said: Facts are stubborn things.
(Ms. WARREN assumed the Chair.)
So it raises the question: If the problems they are telling us about are not real, why are the Democrats doing this? Why are we spending a week debating this constitutional amendment, the most radical constitutional amendment this body has ever considered, particularly because every single Member of this body knows the outcome? There are not sufficient votes to adopt this amendment. The Democrats all know this. The Republicans all know this. Then why would they be doing it?
Well, if you are a Democrat running for reelection in 2014, you cannot run on the economy. The Obama economy is a disaster. Millions of people are out of work. The people who have been hurt the most by the Obama economy are the most vulnerable among us--young people, Hispanics, African Americans, single moms. We have not seen such a low labor force participation since 1978, since the stagnation and misery and malaise under Jimmy Carter. The Obama economy has recreated that. So if you are a Democrat, you cannot run on the disastrous economic record of the Obama administration.
If you are a Democrat, you certainly cannot run on ObamaCare--the most harmful social services legislation in modern times that has cost millions of Americans their jobs, their health care, their doctors. If you do not believe me, take a look at how the Democrats are running in their States. You do not see Democrats running saying: We passed ObamaCare. When you take away millions of people's health care and doctors, and when you look in the TV camera and repeatedly state falsehoods: If you like your health insurance plan, you can keep it, if you like your doctor, you can keep them, you do not really want to remind the American people that you deliberately lied to them.
And the Democrats certainly cannot run on the Obama-Clinton foreign policy--a policy about which we heard last week the President has no strategy for dealing with the great threats facing this country. Leading from behind is not a strategy, and we can see the consequences of the Obama-Clinton foreign policy, which is that the entire world is on fire.
If you are a Democratic Senator running for reelection in 2014, you have a problem. You cannot run on your record because the record is abysmal. So what is done instead? It is smoke and mirrors. It is distraction.
The only explanation I can come up with for why we are spending a week--with all the challenges in the world--a week debating an amendment that will never ever pass is this is designed to fuel a bunch of TV commercials for Democratic Senators, to paint the picture of nefarious billionaires coming to steal our democracy. Facts do not get in the way of their story. But yet the breadth of this is rather enormous.
I serve on the constitution subcommittee with the Senator from Minnesota, who before being a Senator was a very talented comedic actor and comedic writer on ``Saturday Night Live.'' I grew up watching ``Saturday Night Live.'' I love ``Saturday Night Live.''
``Saturday Night Live'' over the years has had some of the most tremendous political satire--for decades. Who can forget Chevy Chase tripping and falling over just about everything? Who can forget portrayals--Dana Carvey's George Herbert Walker Bush: ``Not going to do it.'' Who can forget Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, Al Gore? Who can forget in 2008 the ``Saturday Night Live'' wickedly funny characterization of the Republican Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin? It was wickedly funny and also had a profoundly powerful effect on people's assessment of Governor Palin, who is a friend of mine.
When I asked the Senator from Minnesota in the Senate Judiciary Committee: Do you believe that Congress should have the constitutional authority to prohibit ``Saturday Night Live'' from making fun of politicians, the good Senator promptly reassured me he had no intention of doing any such thing. But what we are debating is not the intentions of 100 Senators. What we are debating is a constitutional amendment that 49 Democrats are proposing to be inserted into the Bill of Rights.
The only question--it is not the intention of those Senators--but, rather, what would that amendment say? What the amendment says is for any corporation Congress would have the constitutional authority to prohibit it from engaging in political speech.
Well, NBC, which airs ``Saturday Night Live,'' is a corporation. Under this amendment 49 Democrats have signed their name to, Congress would have the power to make it a criminal offense. Lorne Michaels could be put in jail under this amendment for making fun of any politician. That is extraordinary, it is breathtaking, and it is dangerous.
The idea of banning books is not new. Advocates of government power, statists, have long favored silencing the citizenry. It is why our First Amendment was such a revolutionary concept, the idea that the individual citizen has the authority to challenge any elected official, from local magistrate all the way up to the President of the United States.
But if you are an advocate of governmental power, the citizens having the liberty to speak out is inconvenient; it can lead to inconvenient truths. So on some level it should not be surprising that the modern Democratic Party, which has become the party of government power over every aspect of our lives, would take it to the final conclusion of giving government the power to silence our political speech and to ban books.
I am reminded, in Ray Bradbury's immortal book ``Fahrenheit 451,'' of the words of Captain Beatty: ``If you don't want a man unhappy politically, don't give him two sides to a question to worry him; give him one. Better yet, give him none.'' That was, of course, the chief fireman in charge of burning books in ``Fahrenheit 451.'' In the book that is the temperature at which book paper ignites. It breaks my heart that today we are seeing the Fahrenheit 451 Democrats. Today we have seen 49 Democrats put their name to a constitutional amendment that would give Congress the power to ban books.
Some might dismiss it and say: What does it matter? It is an exercise in politics. They do not really believe it. They know it is not going to pass. Politicians will be politicians. No wonder the American people are cynical. I would be embarrassed if one Senator put his or her name to an amendment repealing the free speech protections of the First Amendment. Instead of one, it is 49. And much like with Sherlock Holmes and ``the dog that didn't bark,'' every bit as troubling as the 49 names of the Senators who are willing to repeal the free speech protections of the First Amendment are the Senators who are not speaking out. In particular, we have not seen a single Democrat have the courage to speak out against this abominable provision.
It was not always so. There was a time not long ago when there was bipartisan agreement on questions of civil liberties. There was a time when you could find Democrats for whom the First Amendment meant something.
In 1997, Democrats attempted a similar amendment to give Congress the power to regulate free speech, and that lion of the left Ted Kennedy stood up and said: ``In the entire history of the Constitution, we have never amended the Bill of Rights, and now is no time to start.''
Where are the Ted Kennedys? Where are the Democrats? Where are the liberals?
Also in 1997, Senator Russ Feingold, another passionate liberal, stood up and said: ..... the Constitution of this country was not a rough draft. We must stop treating it as such. The First Amendment is the bedrock of the Bill of Rights. It has as its underpinnings that each individual has a natural and fundamental right to disagree with their elected leaders.
I agree with Ted Kennedy, I agree with Russ Feingold, and I will tell you, privately I have urged Democratic colleagues to come and join me in defense of the First Amendment--the handful who have not put their names to this amendment--and all I can surmise is that the partisan pressures of Washington are too much.
This amendment is not going to pass, but it is profoundly dangerous that in the U.S. Senate not a single Democratic Senator will come to the floor in defense of the First Amendment. It is profoundly dangerous that the modern Democratic Party now thinks it is good politics to campaign on repealing the First Amendment. The hashtag #don'trepeal1A has echoed through twitter as individual citizens are amazed.
Earlier this year we saw all 55 Democrats stand together against religious liberty, supporting an amendment that would gut the Religious Freedom Restoration Act which was passed with overwhelming bipartisan support and signed into law by Bill Clinton.
It used to be on religious liberty there was a bipartisan consensus. The same used to be true on free speech. When did Democrats abandon the Bill of Rights? When did Democrats abandon civil liberties? I assure you, if it were my party proposing this egregious amendment, I would be standing on the floor of this Senate giving the very same speech trying to hold my party to account. Because at the end of the day, when we take our oath of office, it is not to a Democratic Party or the Republican Party, it is to represent the citizens of our State--in my case, 26 million Texans--to fight for their rights and to defend and uphold the Constitution of the United States.
There is nothing the United States has done in the just under 2 years that I have been in this body that I find more disturbing and more dangerous than the fact that 49 Democrats would put their name to a proposal to repeal the First Amendment.
When my daughters Caroline, 6, and Catherine, 3, came up from Texas to Washington for a weekend to visit, I took them to the Newseum. It is a terrific museum. The front facade of the Newseum has in gigantic letters the text of the First Amendment carved in granite.
If the Democratic Party has its way, the Bill of Rights will be forever altered. We will have to send up workmen to that facade to carve with jackhammers the words of the First Amendment out of the granite in the front of the Newseum.
In the Senate Judiciary Committee I introduced a substitute amendment. It was an amendment to replace every word of this extraordinarily dangerous amendment with the following words:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
It was word-for-word verbatim the text of the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, and I am sorry to tell you every single Senate Democrat on the Judiciary Committee voted against the text of the First Amendment. It was a straight party-line vote.
Going back to Senator Kennedy, Senator Kennedy and I would have agreed on very little. On matters of policy, he was a big government man and I most assuredly am not. On matters of foreign policy, he supported a far weaker military than do I and a far weaker defense of our Nation. But on the question of the First Amendment, I am proud to stand side by side with Ted Kennedy.
What does it say about the modern Democratic Party that not a single Democrat is willing to honor Senator Kennedy's legacy? His words are every bit as true now as they were in 1997.
In the entire history of the Constitution, we have never amended the Bill of Rights, and now is no time to start.
It is my plea to the Democratic Members of this body that they reconsider the decision of putting their name on this amendment. It may seem like harmless election-year politicking that will help in political campaigns, but it is dangerous when 49 Senators come together and say: We no longer support the First Amendment.
We have a two-party system--a two-party system on which there should be robust debate. It is even more dangerous when one of the two parties becomes so extreme and so radical that it becomes seen as good politics to campaign against the First Amendment.
This will not pass this week, but I hope my Democratic colleagues will have second thoughts. I hope we can return to the day where there is a bipartisan consensus in favor of civil liberties, in favor of protecting the free speech rights of every American.
I hope we will listen to the wise counsel of Senator Kennedy, and I hope we will recognize, as Senator Kennedy and Senator Finegold observed, that there are no James Madisons or Thomas Jeffersons serving in this body today.
The Bill of Rights is not a rough draft, and the U.S. Senate should not be proposing to repeal the First Amendment.
I yield the floor.
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