Senator Frist got a wakeup call this morning with a letter from Senators George Allen, Sam Brownback, Tom Coburn, Jim DeMint, Michael Enzi, John Sununu and David Vitter warning that they would support “extended debate” (hopefully involving reading the D.C. telephone directory like the good ole days) on any bill that contains “the anti-free speech provisions of H.R. 513”. Their position is principled:
The First Amendmentâ€™s dictates are a model of clarity: â€œCongress shall make no lawÃ¢â‚¬Â¦abridging the freedom of speech.â€ Yet the House of Representatives approved a bill (H.R. 513) that proposes new restrictions on speech about politicians and policies to be enforced under the threat of criminal penalties. The House then added the provisions of H.R. 513 to the Senateâ€™s lobbying reform bill.
One of the four pillars of a free and just society is freedom of speech. As George Washington once said, â€œIf the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.â€
As so often happens when one supports liberty on grounds of principle, the result is also politically pragmatic for the Republican Party:
Republicans do not need, and should not attempt, to muzzle their opponents. The increase in free speech over the last two decades made possible by the growth of talk radio, cable TV and the Internet has benefited our Party, which allowed us to promote individual freedom and opportunity that has led to unprecedented prosperity for our nation.