I remember the first time I heard a presidential candidate suggest repealing the 17th Amendment. Like many of you, my first thought was “what the heck is the 17th Amendment?”
It is an idea that has grown in popularity among conservatives. And as I sit and look at the press releases published by Senators who voted for the $1.7 trillion omnibus spending bill, I’m ready to rekindle the flame of calling for its repeal.
To be upfront and honest, I haven’t exactly thought the whole thing through. And if you disagree, I’m totally fine with that and welcome your input. I’ll even publish it if you send it to [email protected]
Getting rid of the 17th Amendment would end the direct election of United States Senators. It would instead return the power of appointing senators to state legislatures. This was how things operated until the Progressive Era amendment was ratified in 1913.
The hope is that senators would act in the best interest of preserving states’ rights and a smaller federal government if they are held to account by state legislatures. It seems to make sense to me, anyway.
Let’s first look at Senator Susan Collins’ press release page after she voted for the $1.7 trillion omnibus bill.
That’s three screenshots. I’m not done. I just thought you might like a break. Here, let’s keep going…
Alright. Wow! Six screenshots in. Four releases per screenshot, 24 press releases all about how much money she secured for Maine in the omnibus package.
But wait! There’s more…
Yeah. That was six more. So we doubled it. And if you quit reading right now, you won’t see the last three…
I promise that is the end. That’s all. No more hidden bonuses will pop up anywhere. I promise.
So, who is Susan Collins working for? Is she working to be a conservative and keep the federal government in good financial shape? Or is she trying to secure as much money as possible for as many Maine projects as possible so she has projects to campaign on for re-election?
Would she be as aggressive in spending this federal money if she were accountable to state legislators rather than trying to curry favor with Maine citizens in exchange for their votes?
I think it is pretty safe to say the federal government has grown too big. And I think it is safe to say one reason is senators attempt to please citizens rather than state legislatures. This seems to me to indicate more spending.
I could be wrong, but it’s just a thought.
Perhaps people want the people to have a direct voice in who their U.S. Senator is. But if the 17th Amendment were repealed, wouldn’t the people still have a choice? It would make state legislative campaigns that much more important. More than 10 percent of voters might actually know the name of their state legislators!
The people would have a say because the people elect their state legislators who in turn will appoint the Senator.
Madison explained the logic as the importance of a balanced federalist system between the state and the federal government. The Senate was supposed to be a link between the state and federal governments, allowing states to have direct agency in the affairs of the country.
If you’re curious, and you probably are, in 2021 Republicans controlled 30 state legislatures. Democrats controlled 18 state legislatures. One state had divided control and Nebraska is nonpartisan.
So, think about what that might mean for the composition of the Senate. Would Democrats still control the Senate? No.
Would Republicans have a filibuster-proof majority? Probably.
Should we take a good, hard look at repealing the 17th Amendment? Yes. Simply because it might mean more Republicans in the chamber? No.
But because our founders were pretty brilliant people with reasons behind their decisions. I struggle to understand how the federal government will get worse or bigger if our senators are appointed by state legislatures rather than attempt to appeal to the majority in their state.
It won’t be easy and people will likely not want to give up their vote for U.S. Senate, but again, do we have a fundamental understanding of why the Senate was constructed the way it was?
The omnibus spending bill — and Sen. Susan Collins’ press releases bragging about how much money she cost the American taxpayers in exchange for projects in Maine — is a good reminder that repealing it is something we should reexamine.