We’ve been discussing the constitution quite a bit lately, in particular the 10th Amendment as several Governors and Gubernatorial candidates have said they would invoke it if ObamaCare passes.  In the post related to the 10th Amendment a couple of readers noted that we wouldn’t be in this mess if we didn’t have the 17th Amendment, and they advocated for its repeal.  It says, in case you are not familiar:

The Senate of the United States shall be comprised of two Senators from each State, elected by the people thereof, for six years; and each Senator shall have one vote.  The electors in each State shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the State legislatures. 

When vacancies happen in the representation of any State in the Senate, the executive authority of such State shall issue writs of election to fill such vacancies: Provided, The the legislature of any State may empower the executive thereof to make temporary appointments until the people fill the vacancies by election as the legislature may direct.

This amendment shall not be so construed as to affect the election or term of any Senator chosen before it becomes valid as part of the Constitution.

Before 1913 when this amendment was ratified, “we the people” didn’t elect Senators.  If you look at Article I, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution, the first sentence reads, “The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, [chosen by the Legislature thereof,] for six Years; and each Senator shall have one Vote.”

Our state legislatures chose who would represent the State in the United States Senate.  The House of Representatives was the House of the people, the Senate was the House of the States.  There were some advantages to this system.

  • Theoretically, you wouldn’t have lifetime Senators.  If the make-up in the Legislature changed your Senator likely changed.
  • They represented the interests of the State and were directly accountable to the State Legislatures (who in turn “we the people” can provide greater accountability and have greater access to).  For instance, it is relatively easy in most states (I know it is in my case) to stop by the Capitol building and meet with my state representative and state senator.  If I have an issue with what is being done in Washington, I can let them know.  They in turn would have greater influence on a U.S. Senator.  Today they virtually none.
  • It is unlikely that unfunded mandates would get passed down to the States, or we would see the Federal government encroach on the role of the Several States if they were accountable and selected by State Legislatures.
  • With this system you see true federalism, dual federalism taking place with a greater balance between the Federal government and the States (which was the intent of the Founders I believe).

Potential problems with a repeal of the 17th Amendment, as it was ratified for a reason.

  • Partisanship could hamper an appointment by the State Legislature (that was seen in the late 19th century).
  • The appointment process could be iffy, how would the Legislatures choose?  Would names be submitted by application?  Would people campaign among the Legislators?
  • With the current makeup of the Iowa Legislature for instance I would not be thrilled with them appointing a new Senator since Senator Chuck Grassley’s term is about up.

In addressing some of these issues, each State could address how the problems were handled.  Another beauty of a federal system.  What works in one particular state may not work in another.  Some states may still want a direct vote (some did prior to the 17th Amendment) and others may not.

Anyway, it was an argument that I’ve not really considered before and it seems to have some merit in my mind.  What do you think?

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