Skip to comments.U.S. Senator Zell Miller: Floor Statement on Repealing the 17th Amendment
Posted on 05/12/2004 7:26:09 AM PDT by ckilmer
Floor Statement on Repealing the 17th Amendment Remarks as Prepared for Delivery on the Senate floor U.S. Senator Zell Miller April 28, 2004
We live in perilous times. The Leader of the Free World's power has become so neutered he cannot, even with the support of a majority of the Senate, appoint highly qualified individuals endorsed by the American Bar to a federal court.
He cannot conduct a war without being torn to shreds by partisans with their eyes set not on the defeat of our enemy but on the defeat of our President.
The U.S. Senate has become just one big, bad, ongoing joke, held hostage by special interests and so impotent an eighteen wheeler truck loaded with Viagra would do no good.
Andrew Young, one of America's most thoughtful men, recently took a long and serious look at a U.S. Senate race and after visiting Washington concluded that the Senate is composed of:
"A bunch of pompous old (folks) listening to people read statements they did't even write and probably don't believe."
The House of Representatives, theoretically the closest of all the federal government to the people, cannot restrain its extravagant spending nor limit our spiraling debt.
And incumbents are so entrenched you might as well call off 80% of the House races. There are no contests.
Most of the laws of our land -- at least, the most important and lasting ones -- are made not by elected representatives of the people, but by unelected, unaccountable legislators in black robes who churn out volumes of case law and who hold their jobs for life.
A half-dozen dirty bombs the size of a small suitcase planted around the country could bring this nation to its knees at any time. And yet we can't even build a fence along our border to keep out illegals because some nutty environmentalists say it will cause erosion.
This government is in one helluva mess, and frankly my dear, very few up here give a damn.
It's not funny. It's sad. It's tragic and it can only get worse. Much worse. What this government needs is one of those extreme makeovers they have on television, and Im not referring to some minor nose job or a little botox here and there.
Congressional Quarterly recently devoted an issue to the "Mandate Wars" with headlines blaring, "Unfunded Mandates Add to Woes, States Say,""Localities Get the Bill for Beefed-Up Security,""Transportation Money Comes With Strings,"and"Medicaid Stuck in Funding Squabbles." Etcetera. Etcetera.
One would think that the much heralded "Unfunded Mandate Reform Act" of 1995never passed. The National Conference of State Legislatures has set the unfunded mandate figure for the states at $33 billion for 2005. This, along with the budget problems theyve been having for the last few years, has put states under the heel of a distant and unresponsive government. That's us!
And it gives the enthusiastic tax-raisers at the state level the very excuse they're looking for to dig deeper and deeper into the pockets of their taxpayers.
It's not a pretty picture. And no matter who you send to Washington -- for the most part smart and decent people -- it is not going to change much. The individuals are not so much at fault as the rotten and decaying foundation of what is no longer a republic.
It is the system that stinks. And its only going to get worse because that perfect balance our brilliant Founding Fathers put in place in 1787 no longer exists. Perhaps then the answer is a return to the original thinking of those wisest of all men, and how they intended for this government to function.
Federalism, for all practical purposes, has become to this generation of leaders some vague philosophy of the past that is dead, dead, dead. It isn't even on life support. That line on the monitor went flat sometime ago.
You see, the reformers of the early 1900's killed it dead and cremated the body when they allowed for the direct election of U.S. senators. Up until then, U.S. senators were chosen by state legislatures, as Madison and Hamilton had so carefully crafted.
Direct elections of senators, as good as that sounds, allowed Washington's special interests to call the shots, whether it's filling judicial vacancies or issuing regulations. The state governments aided in their own collective suicide by going along with the popular fad of the time.
Oh, today, its heresy to even think about changing the system.
But can you imagine those dreadful unfunded mandates being put on the states or a homeland security bill being torpedoed by the unions if U.S. senators were still chosen by and responsible to the state legislatures?
Make no mistake about it. It is the special interest groups and their fundraising power that elect U.S. senators and then hold them in bondage forever. In the past five election cycles, senators have raised over $1.5 billion for their election contests, not counting all the soft money spent on their behalf in other ways. Few would believe it, but the daily business of the Senate is actually scheduled around fundraising.
The 17th Amendment was the death of the careful balance between state and federal governments. As designed by that brilliant and very practical group of Founding Fathers, the two governments would be in competition with each other and neither could abuse or threaten the other.
The election of U.S. senators by the state legislatures was the linchpin that guaranteed the interests of the states would be protected.
Today, state governments have to stand in line. They are just another one of many, many special interests that try to get senators to listen to them. And they are at an extreme disadvantage because they have no PAC.
The great historian, Edward Gibbons, said of the decline of the Roman Empire, "The fine theory of a republic insensibly vanished."
That is exactly what happened in 1913 when the state legislatures, except for Utah and Delaware, rushed pell-mell to ratify the popular 17th Amendment and, by doing so, slashed their own throats and destroyed federalism forever. It was a victory for special interest tyranny and a blow to the power of state governments that would cripple them forever.
And so, instead of senators who thoughtfully make up their own minds, as they did during the Senate's greatest era of Clay, Webster and Calhoun, we now have many senators who are mere cat's paws for the special interests. It is the Senate's sorriest time in its long, checkered and once-glorious history.
So, having now jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge of political reality, before I hit the water and go splat, I have introduced a bill that would repeal the 17th Amendment. I use the word would,not will, because I know it doesn't stand a chance of getting even a single co-sponsor, much less a single vote beyond my own.
Abraham Lincoln, as a young man, made a speech in Springfield, Illinois, in which he called our founding principles "a fortress of strength," but warned that they would grow more and more dim by the silent artillery of time.
A wise man, that Lincoln, who understood and predicted all too well the fate of our republic and our form of government. Too bad we didn't listen to him.
Prediction: It will go nowhere. The grand experiment has failed; we have but to vote ourselves more bread & circuses.
I'm sure this wasn't envisioned when the election of Senators by state legislatures was first conceived, but with the way district boundaries are drawn these days, the fact is that nowadays the HOUSE represents the state legislature (via gerrymandering), and the Senate represents the people of each state -- since state boundaries aren't redrawn after every census.
I remember one election when I lived in California (probably late 1980s) when about half the votes for Representatives went to each party, but about 2/3 of California's House delegation were Democrats. Why? The Democrats controlled the legislature -- and gerrymandered that, too, with similar results. At that time, California had a Republican Senator (Pete Wilson).
The pattern is probably similar in other states, though perhaps in some cases with the parties reversed. If the 17th Amendment were repealed today, it would not remove power from special interests, it would just ensure that ALL of Congress were chosen by gerrymandering, and it would make the political map at the time of the repeal more entrenched at the federal level.
His argument is flawed. State legislatures are elected for the sole purpose of running state governments. Therefore, senators sent by the legislature will reflect the state's interests.
Even though House districts are heavily gerrymandered, the people in them still vote for candidates based on their popular interests, not the interests of the state in which they live.
Do you really think a gerrymandered House district is going to be more concerned with states rights issues than a non-gerrymandered one?
Having said that, this amendment is going nowhere for the simple reason that people today believe democracy is superior to republic, and so would think that making Senators selected by state legislatures would be a loss of freedom.
You want evidence? Just look at all the ranting about how Bush won the election with less than the popular vote. People don't understand that Presidents are elected by the states, not the people.
Ding Ding Ding! We have a winner!