Ted Cruz, left, and Harry Reid, right. (Photos: Diego M. Radzinschi/NLJ)
Senate Democrats on Thursday moved to counteract recent U.S. Supreme Court actions on two fronts, advancing a campaign finance amendment to the Senate floor and announcing a floor vote next week on legislation to undo the contraceptive-mandate ruling.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., announced the Senate would vote on the Protect Women’s Health from Corporate Interference Act the week after the legislation was filed, skipping the committee process.
“It would be political malpractice if we did not react the way we have” to the Supreme Court’s ruling last month in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Reid said. He ranked the case at the top of the worst Supreme Court decisions in recent times.
“It is a horrible decision, certainly the worst in the last 25 years,” Reid said at a Capitol Hill press conference.
The bill seeks to undo the decision that struck down the health care law’s contraceptive mandate for some corporate owners who object to coverage on religious grounds. The legislation faces an uphill battle.
At the same press conference, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., criticized Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. and Justice Samuel Alito for the birth-control ruling. Durbin said he asked those justices repeatedly during confirmation hearings whether they honor the same tradition of privacy found in another contraception case from 50 years ago—Griswold vs. Connecticut.
Durbin stopped short of saying Roberts and Alito lied during confirmation hearings.
“They’re very careful in their answers,” Durbin said. “But they both said that they stood by that Griswold decision. I know they’re careful with their language, but that Hobby Lobby decision was a direct violation of that right of privacy.”
Earlier Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted, 10-8, along party lines, to approve the amendment. It would allow Congress and states “to regulate and set reasonable limits on the raising and spending of money by candidates and others to influence elections.”
The amendment would need 67 votes to pass the Senate. Republicans at the vote criticized the amendment as a political move and said the amendment would erode First Amendment rights to free speech.
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said the text of the amendment would allow Congress to ban books, movies and speech from political groups. “There’s no dispute this amendment would allow all three,” Cruz said.
Democrats said the amendment’s aim is to overturn the high court’s decision in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, which struck limits on aggregate campaign contributions. The amendment would also undo Supreme Court rulings in Buckley v. Valeo and Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.
Contact Todd Ruger at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @ToddRuger.