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Amending Citizens United

The Supreme Court didn't issue its long-awaited health care decision today - perhaps you've heard. But there were a couple of significant decisions out of the high court - striking down parts of Arizona's controversial immigration law and declining to reconsider its historic Citizens United campaign finance decision.

Rhode Island Senator Sheldon Whitehouse has been one of the most outspoken critics of the Citizens United decision, which opened the door to unlimited corporate spending in politics, and he has co-sponsored an amendment to the constitution that would overturn the ruling.

Now that it seems clear the court won't overturn itself - surprise, surprise - I thought it might be interesting to take a quick look at the amendment process. What would it take? Here's your painless civics lesson: a constitutional amendment can be proposed by either two-thirds of the House and Senate or by a constitutional amendment called for by two-thirds of the state legislatures. Three-fourths of the states must then ratify the amendment.

It is, in other words, a steep climb.

There are the beginnings of a popular movement for an amendment. A host of city councils and the like around the country have passed resolutions calling for an amendment.

But it's hard to see Congress voting to block the corporate money that's been so important in so many Congressmen's careers. And if you think the state legislatures might be enlisted, consider this: not a single constitutional amendment has come via a convention.

Reformers, though, are undaunted. Lawrence Lessig of Harvard University and former Rhode Island state Representative David Segal are among those pushing for a constitutional convention. Read more here.

 

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