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CBOR-17: The Senate Restoration Amendment

SECTION 1. The seventeenth amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed.

SECTION 2. If there shall exist vacancies in the representation of any State in the Senate while that State’s legislature is in recess, the executive thereof may make temporary appointments until the legislature shall choose its appointments; but if a regular session of any State’s legislature shall begin while there is a vacancy or temporary appointment in that State’s representation in the Senate, then at the adjournment of that session, if that representation remains vacant or filled with a temporary appointment, the executive shall appoint an individual to serve out the remainder of the term.

SECTION 3. 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.

COMMENTARY:

Most of my Amendments aren’t interested in “turning back the clock”, so to speak. This is the one exception.

When the 17th Amendment was passed, it greatly altered the federalist scheme envisioned by the Founding Fathers, shifting power away from the states and to the federal government. Originally, Senators were chosen by the state legislatures – the idea being that Senators were there to represent state governments, not state populations. Representation of state populations is the function of the House of Representatives. So in one house of Congress – the House – you have the people represented, and in the other house – the Senate – you have state bureaucracies represented. And this makes sense, because the people can demand what they like, but sometimes it doesn’t make sense for the government to do what the people demand, and sometimes the only people who have that perspective are the ones governing. So the idea of a bicameral house was not only to give the States proportional representation in one house and equal representation in the other, but also to give the States popular representation in one house and bureaucratic representation in the other, so that one house would be concerned with what the people want, and the other house would be concerned with what the states could actually deliver on — dreams on one hand, reality checks on the other.

A problem arose in the late 1800s where state legislatures were getting gridlocked choosing Senators, which meant some states would go for months having one or even no Senators representing them in Congress. Granted, that situation was intolerable, but the solution amended into the Constitution was overkill. The 17th Amendment said, “Okay, we’ll just have the people directly elect Senators!” That did extinguish the gridlock problem handily, but it also tore away the bureaucratic reality check the Senate is there to provide. The Senate now represents the people’s hopes and dreams right along with the House. Both houses of Congress have come under the control of the zeitgeist, rather than one house serving to put a brake on the zeitgeist on account of practical governmental concerns.

Moreover, taking the power to appoint Senators away from state legislatures made elections of state legislators into matters of lesser consequence. How many people now vote only for federal candidates, thinking that this is all that’s important? If people knew that their state legislators were not only responsible for state policy but also, through their choice of Senators, for federal policy, I think we’d see greater involvement in state politics.

This Amendment therefore repeals the 17th Amendment, restoring the choice of Senators to the state legislatures. Then, it resolves the original gridlock issue in the least impactful way possible: State governors can make temporary appointments if there’s a vacancy while the legislature is in recess, and if a regular session of the state legislature begins with a vacancy in the Senate, the governor can make a permanent appointment for the remainder of the current term if the vacancy is still unfilled at the end of that session. That gives a state legislature a full regular session to make its decision, which should be more than enough time. This also serves to make the election of a state’s governor a matter of federal importance as well, thus further elevating the status of state-level elections. Most importantly, it returns the United States to the more federalist model of government according to which the nation was originally conceived.

The Cultural Bill Of Rights
–CBOR-7Y: The Seven Years Amendment
–CBOR-RF: The Religious Freedom Amendment
–CBOR-2A: The New Second Amendment
–CBOR-CP: The Capital Punishment Amendment
–CBOR-ED: The Eminent Domain Amendment
–CBOR-17: The Senate Restoration Amendment
–CBOR-SC: The Supreme Court Amendment
–CBOR-QV: The Qualified Voters Amendment
–CBOR-GS: The Gender Standardization Amendment
–CBOR-MS: The Marriage Standardization Amendment
–CBOR-PM: The Protection of Minors Amendment

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