Skip to comments.Modern politics dictates repeal of 17th not enough
Posted on 05/24/2010 6:42:47 AM PDT by Tolerance Sucks Rocks
Discussions centering on the 17th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America have been growing in frequency over the past year. They have been taking place since it was proposed in the early years of the 20th century. But, events over the past 15 months have sparked a rapid rise in the regularity of this dialogue.
For those who are not fully familiar with the 17th Amendment, its ratification switched the manner by which each state’s U.S. senators are selected. Originally, the Constitution was written specifying that both senators from every state were to be elected by the state legislatures. Since the amendment was ratified in 1913, all senators are elected by a popular vote among their respective states’ registered voters.
The Senate of the United States shall be composed 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, That 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.
The key argument against the 17th Amendment has centered on the principles of States’ Rights and State Sovereignty. Before its ratification, since U.S. senators were directly accountable to the legislatures of their home states, state governments enjoyed the authority to recall their senators back to the state capitals to answer for any and all legislative activity in which they engaged in Washington, D.C.
As a result, U.S. senators were expected to conduct all business on Capitol Hill entirely with the consent of state leaders because they were directly answerable to that legal governing body.
Over the ensuing century since this revision to our Constitution, we have found ourselves left contending with senators who only have to answer for their sins once every six years – and their accountability is largely contingent upon the accuracy of news media reporting of their track records to the public at large. This is most effectively evidenced by the passage of so-called health care reform despite that act’s enormous unpopularity among voters and the feedback demonstrating as much during the multitude of town hall meetings held over the past 12 months.
Thus, we are led to the debate once again over the value and benefit of the United States Senate having its body selected by popular vote. Reality, however, reveals that changing this back to the original design, by itself, will not be enough.
In our modern political world, a repealing of the 17th Amendment would have to be accompanied by either strong legislation reforming (by reforming, I mean virtually eliminating) the earmarks process or even an additional Constitutional Amendment to that end.
I say this because of the purpose earmarks serve for federal politicians: to curry favor with enough constituents to ensure reelection.
While returning selection of U.S. senators to the state legislatures would be an outstanding step toward restoring American law to its Constitutional origins, we must bear in mind the manner in which too many state governments (particularly, my home state of Ohio) have grown comfortable with leaning on the federal dole (especially from President Barack Obama’s beloved American Recover and Reinvestment Act legislation) to fund their budgets.
My biggest concern is that repealing the 17th Amendment as a lone course of action will not change the Senate's make-up too significantly. You would still see a collection of 100 politically well-connected elites working to rack-up as many earmarks for their home states as they can so that their friends in their respective states' capital buildings and governor's mansions will continue to send them back to Washington every six years.
But, dramatic reforms to earmarks would nullify a great deal of that form of legal corruption. It also would reduce the potential for wasteful disputes between states that would serve to muddle the political discussions across America even more so than they already are: governments in states that are more responsible with their spending would, by necessity, eventually become overly preoccupied with the rates of federal revenue consumption by others such as California, New York, Michigan, and Massachusetts – thus distracting them to an extreme from keeping their own affairs in order.
Granted, repealing the 16th Amendment (which allowed Congress to engage in taxation as we know it today) would achieve a great deal of the same effect. But, without a balanced budget amendment we likely would end-up trading one form of risk for another. While those currently in Washington (or we can expect to see there after this November's elections) would be forced to rethink their methods of federal collections (or confiscations, as most Libertarians prefer to call it), we actually have no guarantees that before they finally resolve the gap between expenditures and revenues they won't simply ramp-up their rate of borrowing to a pace that dwarfs present levels.
Stringent, detailed limits on how the federal government may spend have to be put in place one way or the other (via bold legislation or a Constitutional Amendment).
Among those details I would like to see include guidelines specifying that once the federal budget has been passed no single discretionary spending legislation may exceed 1% of the original budget during its fiscal year and total additional spending over the course of the fiscal year may not exceed 5% of its original budget. Obviously, such spending measures may be passed only if there is enough tax revenue collected to cover those expenditures.
Of course, since no one can anticipate when a crisis will arise (natural disasters, acts of terrorism, etc.) an allowance for such contingencies ought to be included. Emergency spending measures which entail exceeding either limit detailed above should require more than two-thirds (or, preferably, three-fourths) of both houses of Congress to vote “Yea” in order to reach the President’s desk for signing.
Also, I suggest these specific spending limitations as a supplement to repealing the 17 Amendment as I honestly believe the prospect for putting them in place would be more realistic than garnering enough public support nationwide for simultaneously taking the 16th Amendment with it.
Eventually, the 17th Amendment needs to be recognized for what it was: an interesting experiment in the expanded democratization of our Republic; a useful tool for the benefit of the Progressive movement; and a means to diminish the core principle of states’ sovereignty so as to allow greater power and authority to be retained by the federal government.
And then, it must be relegated to being little more than a footnote in our nation’s history.
The 17th was an attempt to “democratize” the process and a way to control and manipulate the more powerful of the two houses. It should be repealed and senators made to answer to their states and the people of the state.
Problem is, Senators are not going to vote themselves out of office,because, in effect, that is exactly what repealing the 17th would do.
This would never pass.
The best one thing to “discipline” a run-away Federal Government?
Kill the Federal Reserve.
If no Federal Reserve, there would be no bubble blowing. There would be no Gov’t bailouts or “too big to fail.” The Government could not fund huge deficits year after year, there would be no huge entitlements - because the Gov’t would need to either tax or borrow from the public immediately, and the reaction in the market would be instantaneous.
Think about it - IF there was no Federal Reserve to debase the dollar, and gains from productivity in the economy would go to workers and the middle class. No money could be siphoned off from the middle class by the stealth taxes and inflation.
The Federal Reserve actually SUPPORTS the wealthies members of our ruling class. IF no Federal Reserve, the likes of Goldman Sachs would have paid the price long ago through bankruptcy.
If Senators were elected by the Legislatures, then God help California. The State Legislature is terribly corrupt and far to the left. I bet every state that has large, liberal mega-cities would face the same problem.
Individual citizens have a lot of say in electing State Senators, currently. Watch Barbara Boxer go straight To Jail, Do Not Pass GO.
The State legislatures do not choose senators by legislative or sovereign authority, but by a power of ministerial agency as mere electors or boards of appointment. They have no power to direct the senators how or what duties they shall perform; they have neither power to censure the senators, nor to supersede them for misconduct.
It is not the power of choosing to office merely that designates sovereignty, or else corporations who appoint their own officers and make their own by-laws, or the heads of department who choose the officers under them, such as commanders of armies, etc., may be called sovereigns, because they can name men to office whom they cannot dismiss therefrom.
The exercise of sovereignty does not consist in choosing masters, such as the senators would be, who, when chosen, would be beyond control, but in the power of dismissing, impeaching, or the like, those to whom authority is delegated. The power of instructing or superseding of delegates to Congress under the existing confederation has never been complained of, although the necessary rotation of members of Congress has often been censured for restraining the state sovereignties too much in the objects of their choice. As well may the electors who are to vote for the president under the new constitution, be said to be vested with the sovereignty, as the State legislatures in the act of choosing senators.
The senators are not even dependent on the States for their wages, but in conjunction with the federal representatives establish their own wages. The senators do not vote by States, but as individuals. The representatives also vote as individuals, representing people in a consolidated or national government; they judge upon their own elections, and, with the Senate, have the power of regulating elections in time, place and manner, which is in other words to say, that they have the power of elections absolutely vested in them.
Repeal would certainly cure what ails our senate today.
Yes. You’re correct.
I should have said ‘voting to repeal the 17th’.
Something I doubt the Senate would do.
That would be like asking someone on Welfare to vote to force Welfare recipients to work!
Ain’t gonna happen.
Repeal the 16th amendment with the 17th and we’ll take the corrupt Senators money away as well.
It is long past time to audit, then abolish the the Fed.
You will have lots of FReepers slam you and call you a kook.
But the reality is that what we see today is the fruit of fiat currency and paper money backed by nothing but the “full faith and confidence” in the government.
I don’t have faith in the government. I am not confident they will do anything but make life worse for everyone, if given the opportunity.
The Federal Reserve system is based on theft, fraud, and deceit.
It should be repealed and senators made to answer to their states and the people of the state.
The thing is ... right now the Senators do answer to the people of the state, by way of those people of the state electing them or not electing them -- directly.
What this would do -- is remove the "people of the state" -- one more level "away from" the Senator and direct accountability to the people of the state.
It would then be, the Senator is accountable to the legislators and then, through the legislators, the people of the state have a say. That's putting the "people of the state" further away from the Senators in terms of those Senators' accountability.
And ever since both Senate and House have been directly “accountable” to the people, government has grown ginormously, while the states have no way of acting prophylactically against that, via appointment of Senators. Having at least one branch of the legislature accountable to the people is important, but it is apparently not enough to restrain government. And I’m not discounting the importance of the 16th Amendment in helping to allow government growth, either.
If the California legislature were slecting the senators from the state, how would we see any difference from the ones the state is sending to DC now?
We wouldn’t. However, the way it is now, we have a chance. The Legislature seems (always?) loaded with folks from the big liberal cities. And then they gerrymander. They would have it locked up for good, wouldn’t they? Wonder why the 17th was enacted — something must have triggered it. The rise of big cities, perhaps? I don’t know .
And ever since both Senate and House have been directly accountable to the people, government has grown ginormously, while the states have no way of acting prophylactically against that, via appointment of Senators.
You'll notice that I was answering this statement ...
... senators made to answer to their states and the people of the state.
And if that's what one is talking about having -- i.e., being "accountable to the people of the state" -- then you can't get any closer in "accountability" than the direct elections by the people that these Seantors have right now.
But, obviously you're not talking about the Senators being directly accountable to the people but being directly accountable to the "states" (as in the legislators). That seems to be wide-open for "good ole boy politics" at work and in action there ... :-) ...
I think that the "people of the state" -- themselves -- would prefer the direct accountability to their Senators. So, I doubt you're going to find those same "people of the state" -- ratifying such a Constitutional Amendment, in which they put themselves (those people of the states) further away in the direct accountability that these people have with their Seantors right now.
Term limit them out. Two five year terms, then back to the real world. Two three year terms for congressmen.
But the Senate was not designed to be directly accountable to the people -- we already had the House for that. The Senate, by its accountability to the state legislature, was to turn back efforts by the Federal government to take power away from the states.
This arrangement went hand in hand with having 2 senators from each state no matter its size. It's a shame that such an elegant plan was overturned during the regrettable progressive age.
There’s another way: initialpoints.net
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