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It would make a special provision allowing the press to operate free of restrictions, but that raises other questions about who would qualify for media exemptions.

Amendments take a two-thirds vote of the Senate and the House to be submitted to the states, and then three-fourths of the states would have to ratify them to take effect.

The debate comes down to the purpose of the First Amendment, said Sen. Chuck Grassley, Iowa Republican.

Mr. Grassley said that for the founders, the freedom of speech was an end unto itself, worthy of defending. But he said for modern Democrats, it’s viewed not as an end but a means to an informed democratic debate. Since Democrats judge the democratic debate to be in jeopardy, the free speech rules can be changed.

Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, countered that no amendment is absolute — not even the First Amendment. He said restrictions on pornography or libel are part of a balancing test.

“I think if Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Bill of Rights, were looking down on what’s being proposed here, he’d agree with it. He would agree that the First Amendment cannot be absolute,” Mr. Schumer said.