May 12, 2004
Zell Zings The 17th
Last November, I posted my gripes about the Constitution's 17th Amendment which directs that U.S. senators be elected by the people of each state rather than by the state legislatures. A few excerpts:
As a representative body, the United States Senate lost its reason to exist in 1913 when the 17th Amendment was ratified ... The 17th Amendment made the Senate's representative function identical to that of the House of Representatives and rendered the Senate a redundant, purposeless legislative body ... The Founders' plan for a bicameral legislature that would represent both the people and each State's legislature and preserve the fundamentals of federalism was destroyed by the 17th Amendment.
Imagine my surprise when I learned that in late April a Democrat U.S. senator, Zell Miller of Georgia, formally proposed a constitutional amendment to repeal the 17th Amendment and restore the Founder's original plan for choosing senators.
As the AP reported on April 28:
[Miller] said Wednesday that rescinding the 17th Amendment, which declared that senators should be elected, would increase the power of state governments and reduce the influence of Washington special interests.
"The individuals are not so much at fault as the rotten and decaying foundation of what is no longer a republic," Miller said on the Senate floor. "It is the system that stinks. And it's only going to get worse because that perfect balance our brilliant Founding Fathers put in place in 1787 no longer exists."
The Constitution called for voters to directly elect members to the U.S. House but empowered state legislatures to pick senators. The aim was to create a bicameral Congress that sought to balance not only the influence of small and large states but also the influence of state and federal governments.
Miller said that balance was destroyed in 1913 with the ratification of the 17th Amendment.
Attaboy, Zell. Though passage of his resolution is highly unlikely, it's refreshing to see that least one senator has the cajones to speak the truth.
Bruce Bartlett of the National Center for Policy Analysis wrote a column this week praising Miller's proposed amendment. Check it out here. (Thanks to Hootie McBoob for bringing the Barlett column to my attention.)
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