Schumer calls for “limits on First Amendment rights” during Senate debate

posted at 5:21 pm on July 17, 2012 by Rob Bluey

The Senate has gone 1,175 days without passing a budget. Taxmageddon and sequestration are threatening the economic livelihood of millions of Americans. And yet the top order of business for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) this week is the DISCLOSE Act, a blatant attempt by liberals to circumvent and restrict the First Amendment.

Senate Democrats even staged a “midnight vigil” last night to promote their cause. That’s when the follies starting flying. New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, the No. 3 Democrat, had the biggest whopper of the evening when he called for “limits on First Amendment rights” during his Senate speech. (Full transcript below the video.)

Here’s the transcript (emphasis added):

I believe there ought to be limits because the First Amendment is not absolute. No amendment is absolute. You can’t scream ‘fire’ falsely in a crowded theater. We have libel laws. We have anti-pornography laws. All of those are limits on the First Amendment. Well, what could be more important than the wellspring of our democracy? And certain limits on First Amendment rights that if left unfettered, destroy the equality — any semblance of equality in our democracy — of course would be allowed by the Constitution. And the new theorists on the Supreme Court who don’t believe that, I am not sure where their motivation comes from, but they are just so wrong. They are just so wrong.

While Schumer was ranting about the need for greater restrictions on free speech, other Democrats were complaining about the role of money in politics. Except, it seems, the sponsor of the DISCLOSE Act, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI). He left the debate to attend a political fundraiser. That caught the eye of John Stanton at Buzzfeed:

The Senate Democrat leading the push for greater transparency in campaign donations to outside organizations slipped out of a highly orchestrated floor event Monday – to attend a fundraiser for an outside organization.

Ultimately, the DISCLOSE Act failed to get the 60 votes necessary Tuesday afternoon. The final vote was 53 to 45. But even though it’s now failed this session and the last one, there are no permanent victories in Washington. Reid already floated the idea of changing the Senate rules to make it easier for Democrats to pass legislation. Here’s what he told MSNBC’s Ed Schultz:

We can’t go on like this anymore. I don’t want to get rid of the filibuster, but I have to tell you, I want to change the rules and make the filibuster meaningful. The filibuster is not part of our constitution, it came about as a result of our wanting to get legislation passed, and now it’s being used to stop legislation from passing.

That’s not always been Reid’s view of the filibuster, a procedural tool he used when President George W. Bush was in office. In fact, he said on the “Charlie Rose Show” in 2007, “In the Senate, it’s always been the case you need 60 votes.” Except, of course, when Democrats are in charge.


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