Defending Amy Coney Barrett, Ted Cruz Highlights the Threats That Democrats Pose to Civil Liberties
Senate Democrats are portraying Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett as a menace to health care, abortion access, and democracy. During Barrett’s confirmation hearing today, Sen. Ted Cruz (R–Texas) countered that argument by detailing some of the ways in which justices nominated by a Democratic president could be expected to endanger civil liberties—in particular, freedom of speech and the right to armed self-defense.
When Hillary Clinton ran for president in 2016, Cruz noted, she promised to nominate justices who would vote to overturn Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the 2010 decision in which the Supreme Court concluded that restrictions on political speech by labor unions and corporations, including an ideologically diverse array of nonprofit advocacy groups, were inconsistent with the First Amendment. The issue in that case, Cruz reminded us, was whether “a small nonprofit organization based in D.C.” could be fined for airing and promoting “a movie critical of a politician”—Clinton herself—close to an election, which qualified as a forbidden “electioneering communication.”
During the first round of oral argument in Citizens United, Cruz noted, Justice Samuel Alito asked Deputy Solicitor General Malcolm Stewart whether the Constitution would allow Congress to ban material like Hillary: The Movie not just on radio or TV but in other media as well, such as DVDs, the internet, and books. Stewart said yes, noting that the ban on “express advocacy” by corporations—speech that does not merely praise or pan a candidate but explicitly supports his election or defeat—was not limited to radio and TV.
“That’s pretty incredible,” Alito replied. He then pressed Stewart to say whether a book containing express advocacy could be banned if it were published by a corporation (as books typically are). After much hemming and hawing, Stewart again said yes. He did note that the ban on express advocacy made an ex
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