House Democrat Proposal is Designed to Reduce Free Speech in America

‘Democrats continue to fixate on chipping away at the First Amendment. It is a pet project they return to time and time again. It’s disturbing. Especially in light of recent, blatant attempts to intimidate Americans into silence.’

WASHINGTON, D.C.U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) delivered the following remarks today on the Senate floor regarding H.R. 4617:

“Later today, I understand the House of Representatives will vote on H.R. 4617 — the latest installment in Speaker Pelosi’s campaign to expand government’s control over Americans’ political speech.

“It’s a transparent attack on the First Amendment that has united an unlikely band of opponents across the political spectrum. Everybody from hardcore conservatives to the ACLU is speaking out against this effort to erode Americans’ constitutional rights.

“The proposal would give the FEC unprecedented license to track and regulate Americans’ political speech on the Internet – and decide what speech qualifies as political in the first place. And if it were not bad enough on principle to fill more Washington D.C. filing cabinets with which citizens hold what beliefs, their bill would also deputize media companies into this effort.

“They’d force publications to keep excessive records for any advertisements they accept, not only for political campaigns, but on any issue of national importance.

“When this regulatory burden has been tried on a smaller scale, it has frightened media platforms into rejecting political ads altogether. It’s a textbook example of policy designed to reduce the amount of free speech in this country.

“Press organizations such as the Washington Post and the Baltimore Sun have already sued over similar regulations on First Amendment grounds and won in court.

“So House Democrats want to violate the First Amendment and harm journalists in order to give more control to the FEC. That would be the same FEC that Democrats have recently tried to shift from a bipartisan body to a partisan body for the first time ever.

“A different part of the House bill refers to, ‘legitimate journalistic activities.’ I look forward to hearing what Orwellian commission or process House Democrats may have in mind for determining whether Washington D.C. deems a particular journalist ‘legitimate.’ These are just a few examples.

“Even the ACLU, widely viewed as a left-leaning organization that is not known for siding with Republicans, is publicly opposing the Democrats’ bill.

“Here’s what the ACLU says: ‘The SHIELD Act…strikes the wrong balance, sweeping too broadly and encompassing more speech than necessary…the SHIELD Act goes too far…to the detriment of the public and the First Amendment.’

“Congress has real business to attend to. House Democrats need to stop blocking the USMCA. Senate Democrats need to stop blocking defense funding. Yet rather than work on these issues, we instead see Democrats continue to fixate on chipping away at the First Amendment. It is a pet project they return to time and time again. It’s disturbing. Especially in light of recent, blatant attempts to intimidate Americans into silence.

“Just a few months ago, a sitting House Democrat earned national criticism when he publicly tweeted out a list of his own constituents in San Antonio, Texas who had donated to President Trump’s campaign.

“He listed these private citizens’ names along with their employers or businesses. In this era of political harassment and online mobs, the implication was clear as day.

“So, from Twitter posts to partisan messaging bills, House Democrats’ mission is the same: Chill the exercise of free speech. Send a message to Americans with inconvenient views that speaking up is more trouble than it’s worth.

“This proposal will not do anything to stop malign foreign actors, something that every member of this body cares deeply about. As three former FEC chairmen recently pointed out, foreign adversaries like Russia are not going to stop their malign operations for fear of an FEC fine: ‘Campaign-finance law isn’t the tool to prevent foreign meddling…Adversaries won’t be scared off by civil penalties…This is a job for diplomatic, national security and counterintelligence agencies. [This legislation] is a needless sacrifice of First Amendment rights, not a serious effort to secure elections.’

“That’s three former chairmen of the Federal Elections Commission. And I agree: It was focusing on defense and counterintelligence, not attacking the First Amendment, that made the 2018 elections go more smoothly than the 2016 elections.

“That’s why the hundreds of millions of dollars Congress has set aside for state grants has made a big difference. That needs to remain our focus as we continue our efforts to avoid repeating the mistakes of 2016.

“So House Democrats have achieved something remarkable here. They have drafted legislation that is so anti-First-Amendment that it has united everybody from former FEC commissioners to the ACLU to yours truly in opposition to it.

“I am sorry that Speaker Pelosi deems go-nowhere messaging bills a better use of the House’s time than the USMCA and the 176,000 new American jobs that experts tell us it would create.

“The American people deserve a House of Representatives that works with the Senate and the president to actually make law and make progress for the families we represent.”

Related Issues: National Security, First Amendment, Russia