Monday, January 20, 2014

What are the prospects of the 17th Amendment being repealed?

First, we need to understand why it should.

Although most citizens do not see a difference between a state legislature choosing its senators or voters electing them as they do their representatives, those who understand why the Constitution created different methods to place members in Congress see the impact the 17th Amendment has on governance at the state and federal levels.

It is understandable citizens may not appreciate the intricacies and the distinction between the responsibilities of those who serve in the Senate and the House.

But, this should be the case for state legislatures, for the 17th Amendment has taken away the only power they had against the will of the Federal government, through the direct election process.

Nor was it merely a whim  senatorial terms were six years and senators had to be at least thirty five years of age (not a youngster at our founding), while representatives would serve two year terms, at the age of twenty-five. It was deliberate!

The Founders wanted representatives to be accountable, using short terms, so the people who elected them could replace them within a reasonable time frame if they were not pleased.

Not so for senators, they would be accountable to the state, must be older, as maturity was considered an asset in the Senate, and a lengthier term allowed them to be more deliberative without the short election cycle  hovering over them.

But, the 17th Amendment changed all this.  No longer would a senator have to factor in what legislation meant to a state, as long as his voters gained he could be assured his reelection would not be at risk.

To use a recent example, consider the extension of unemployment benefits which is being battled in Congress now.

Three years ago, this issue was before Congress, and it passed as senators joined their House colleagues and passed legislation to extend unemployment benefits.  Everyone appeared pleased, at least temporarily.

Two years later the states received a "bill in the mail" from the Federal government.  In the case of NC, our bill was $2.5 billion, money loaned to us to pay for the extended unemployment benefits.
Now, this was never mentioned leading up to the vote, and even if state legislature knew this and tried stop passage, what leverage did they have? Senators were not accountable to the states, only the people who elected them who may not know the implication on their state, which might lead to a state tax increase or spending cuts elsewhere!

This is a single example, and only for a relatively small amount. But, there are huge issues affecting a multiple of states.  Consider fracking in six or eight states, or off shore drilling in twelve states aligned along coasts.

In both cases none of these state legislatures would have 'say' as senators do not have to consider implications of Federal moratoriums on state economies, only the desires of voters.

As long as the 17th Amendment remains, so too does the impotency of the states, something our Founders did not want, nor should we.

How can we abolish the 17th Amendment?  It would take a extraordinary effort, and include the public, state legislatures and members of the Senate themselves.

They all must agree it is important to rekindle the embers of state sovereignty to restore the intended balance between the states and the Federal government it to the position it once had.

I'll stop here, and await your response, hopefully with some suggestions that I will forward along.

Thanks for taking the time.

P.S.  It would be interesting to see how many US senators would appreciate the point of what is lost to the states...and would welcome ending the
17th. I believe they like things just the way they are....every six years, pander to a mostly uninformed electorate who can be 'bought' with Federal goodies without caring a whit about the burden states must
carry with expansive government, with new laws and regulations.

A 'good fight' can only be waged when citizens see the damage and state legislators fight to regain what was taken away.

Anthony Bruno
Cary, NC

Like all great ideas, it started with a 'single piece of paper'....our "Declaration of Independence"

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