By Bill Moore
I am sure that you are aware of the problems and issues that exist in the United States Senate. They appear to be the least functional of both Houses of Congress and are made up of only 100 Senators.
They operate on archaic rules and consider the rules of the Senate more important than the will of the People. The Republicans in the Senate are ideal examples of what is wrong in the Senate. Although they make up a slim majority in the Senate (52 voting members), they are unable to accomplish anything of importance. Examples include, ACA repeal, Tax Reform, Immigration, and filling vacancies on the Federal Courts and in the President’s Cabinet.
For 7 years they all swore to “Repeal the Affordable care Act (ACA)”. They had no problem with a vote to do so since they knew then that President Obama would veto it. Enter 2017. The Republicans control all aspects of Government including the Presidency. However, now that we have a President who will sign a repeal of the ACA, they cannot muster enough votes to pass anything related to health care. They have tried passing through Reconciliation a “Repeal and Replace” of the ACA. They have even tried a straight Repeal as was passed before. They tried a “skinny repeal” to use the words of the Senate leadership. Nothing passed the Senate!
If the facts be known President Obama only vetoed a repeal of the ACA once, in 2016. The other 60 times that the House passed the repeal it never passed the Senate. So what is a solution to the Senate’s lack of accountability to the People?
I strongly suggest the Repealing of the 17th amendment, the direct election of Senators. Prior to April 1913 the Senators were appointed by the legislatures from the States they represented. The Founders were afraid of a big Government. They wanted to constrain the Federal Government and retain power over the Feds via the States in order to protect of the People. They went so far as to have different terms for Federal officials. The House of Representatives would be elected by the people for two year terms. The President would be elected by an Electoral College based on voting in the States for four years. The Supreme Court had lifetime appointments while Senators had six year terms elected by the State Legislators. They went so far as to stagger them to ensure continuity.
By having the Legislatures appoint the Senators, they were in fact accountable to the Legislatures to protect Individual and States’ rights. Granted some modifications have to be made to ensure the issues that caused the call for Direct Election Of Senators do not reoccur.
Some of these reasons included deadlocked Legislatures that could not fill vacancies in the Senate for months or more. Other reasons include Party machines using the seats to pay off the party loyalists who became part of the ‘Millionaires Club”. That “Millionaires Club” has not changed with the Direct Election of Senators. We still have many Senators with a net worth well over one million dollars and owe their allegiance to the Party leadership.
Solution: part of the repeal of the 17th Amendment should include a statement that gives the Governor the power to appoint the Senator(s) should the Legislature deadlock. Knowing how Legislatures regret losing their power to a Governor, this should eliminate the deadlock issue. As far as nominations by the “Party machine”, I do not see a difference. The Political Parties currently have methods to help “aid” the voters select a candidate. They will often have a second or third candidate suddenly declare a run, splitting the protest vote and allowing the Party establishment candidate clear sailing to the party nomination. (This has happened in North Carolina)
The only way to Repeal the 17th Amendment is through a Convention of States. Do not think for a minute that the Senate will support any Constitutional Amendment that returns their control and accountability to their respective Legislature. They like being accountable to no one.
The point of this is that no method is perfect. However if we support increasing states’ rights and thus individual rights we need to return the selection of Senators back to the Legislature. The Legislature can recall a Senator who ignores the will of the People /Legislature. Maybe then they will pass Senate rules that support the will of the People.
What have we got to lose????