Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A Worthty Issue: Repeal Of The 17th Amendment

The Idaho Conservative Blogger (ICB) reports that the Idaho Republican Convention has included, as a part of the platform, the repeal of the 17th Amendment (Senators Elected By Popular Vote).

The old Watch Dog has long been an advocate for repeal of the 17th Amendment because it has greatly altered the function of Congress as was intended by the founding fathers.

Article III begins as follows:

“The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, chosen by the Legislature thereof,”

When the Constitution was debated and enacted there was great fear that large states might dominate if legislators were apportioned by population and the large states feared that they would be at a disadvantage if every state had the same number of votes.

Ben Franklin came to the rescue. Mr. Franklin proposed that they establish two houses. One house (Senators) was to represent the states interest, and a second house (Representatives) was to represent the interests of the people.

This is why the Senate was empowered to advise and consent on appointees to cabinet posts and federal judges and to sign treaties. The people were to control the purse strings and that is why the introduction of all spending bills was mandated to the House.

The 6 year term for the Senate and a 2 year term for Representatives came from the fact that they expected that Legislatures would pick well known individuals, which implied men of means and could afford to travel to DC over the 6 years. Representatives were expected to be farmers, merchants, and the like, for whom the expense of serving would be a long term problem.

After the Civil War, the Southern States figured out that the best way of preventing unwanted legislation, some which might be punitive, was to prevent the Senate from having a quorum. To accomplish this, they did not appoint their Senators.

This action eventually caused the 17th Amendment which reads as follows:

“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.”

It would be wonderful if we could restore the Constitution balance by repealing Amendment 17.

However, that requires yet another Constitutional Amendment how do we do that?

Article V Amendments

“The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as Part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress; Provided that no Amendment which may be made prior to the Year One thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any Manner affect the first and fourth Clauses in the Ninth Section of the first Article; and that no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate.”

All that means is that there are 3 methods of amending the U.S. Constitution--

1. A new amendment may be approved by two-thirds of both houses of Congress, sent to the states for approval. Final ratification requires approval by three-fourths of final ratification requires approval by three-fourths of the states.

2. Two-thirds of the state legislatures may apply to Congress for a constitutional convention to consider amendments, which are then sent to the states for approval. Final ratification requires approval by three-fourths of the states.

3. Congress may require ratification by special convention. The convention method has been used only once, to approve the 21st Amendment, repealing prohibition. Final ratification requires approval by three-fourths of the states.

There is only one limit on the amending power: No amendment may deprive a state of equal representation in the Senate without that state's consent.

Alas, it will be a cold day in the Nether World when old number 17 is put to pasture.

Comments are invited!
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TLCC said...


GoGirl said...

I was never taught any of that in my school!

I have always wondered by the Senate had the “Advise and Consent” and “Ratify” powers but the House had the purse strings power.

Every informative.

Ty said...


You can't attack President Obama for this one.