The Quest to Repeal the 17th Amendment, Because of Reasons

By Udo J. Keppler, 1872-1956 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Apparently the 17th Amendment saved America from a giant octopus named Standard Oil, or something.

A movement is afoot among certain people on the right end of the political spectrum to repeal the Seventeenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. This movement seems unlikely to rile up the masses, given that the changes brought by the Seventeenth Amendment are pretty much presumed to be the status quo at this stage of America. Understanding what the 17th Amendment does, and why it was enacted in the first place, is at least as important as understanding why some people want to repeal it. I have some idea as to why it was enacted, ratified, etc., but I’m still working on understanding the reasons for seeking repeal.

What is the Seventeenth Amendment?

The Constitution, in Article III, Section 3, Clauses 1 and 2, originally provided for election of U.S. Senators by state legislatures.

The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, chosen by the Legislature thereof, for six Years; and each Senator shall have one Vote.

Immediately after they shall be assembled in Consequence of the first Election, they shall be divided as equally as may be into three Classes. The Seats of the Senators of the first Class shall be vacated at the Expiration of the second Year, of the second Class at the Expiration of the fourth Year, and of the third Class at the Expiration of the sixth Year, so that one third may be chosen every second Year; and if Vacancies happen by Resignation, or otherwise, during the Recess of the Legislature of any State, the Executive thereof may make temporary Appointments until the next Meeting of the Legislature, which shall then fill such Vacancies.

The Seventeenth Amendment superseded the parts in bold. It pretty much took those provisions verbatim, except that it replaced references to state legislatures with references to “the people.”

Drawing from the resources available to me on a laptop in a coffeehouse (Justia and Wikipedia), I can say that much of the impetus for the 17th Amendment was “popular dissatisfaction with the operation of the originally established method of electing Senators.” As more and more people got the right to vote, people began to think that they should be able to elect senators directly. The idea had apparently come up multiple times since the 1820’s, but didn’t make it into the Constitution until 1913.

What’s the problem with directly electing Senators? Continue reading


So We Don’t Have Background Checks. Big Whoop.

450px-Open_Carry_of_a_9mm_Browning_Hi_Power_in_Eagle,_ColoradoI’ve been thinking about the vote in the Senate yesterday, and how a handful of red state Democrats supposedly betrayed the rest of the country, and so forth. The first thoughts that popped into my head were (1) just because a majority of Americans want something does not, by itself, make it a good idea or the right thing to do, and (2) legislation often works best as a formalizing process of a society-wide shift in attitudes. These two somewhat-contradictory ideas apply to gun regulation in the sense that, while most people seem to want background checks and other relatively modest regulations, and while the NRA can’t seem to address these issues without hyperbole and mendacity, the fact is that background check legislation, and similar laws, will be doomed to failure as long as the self-described “law-abiding” gun crowd seems predisposed to fight tooth and nail against them. I have seen no arguments against modest gun regulation that weren’t reduceable to “Regulation, registry, Nazis, oh my!” and quite frankly, I’m tired of trying to argue with people who refuse to address the issue at hand and tend to speak of everything in apocalyptic terms. As long as we tolerate people who have more respect for their guns than for their fellow citizens, none of this is ever going to get better.

The odd thing about all of this is that I’m actually pretty pro-gun rights, but I can’t stand shoddy arguments and uncompromising, extreme rhetoric. So here’s my point: Continue reading


Senator Ted Cruz, Green Party Double Agent?


More than meets the eye?

Ted Cruz, the Republican freshman senator from Texas, has, to put it lightly, been a colossal embarrassment for our state. I won’t even bother listing his accomplishments in his barely two months in office, but if his goal was to keep himself in the headlines making all Texans look bad, then he is doing a bang-up job.

A recent vote on a seemingly uncontroversial resolution, however, has made me wonder if there is something deeper at work here:

In an unusual move, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) objected last week to a routine Senate resolution commemorating Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Week.

Congress passes hundreds of resolutions, meant to commemorate everything from a special awareness week or Little League champions. The resolutions lack any real power of law and are predominantly ceremonial. For example, earlier this month the Senate passed resolutions to mark “World Plumbing Day” and commemorating the three-year anniversary of the Haiti earthquake.

In order to keep business moving and not clog the Senate floor, they are normally passed in bulk through a  “unanimous consent agreement,” meaning a vote isn’t tallied since both sides agree to it.

But last week, Cruz objected to including the MS Awareness resolution. He was unhappy with a clause in the resolution describing the purpose of the Multiple Sclerosis Coalition, according to a Democratic staffer.

Now, I suppose we should take anything a “Democratic staffer” says with a grain of salt, as it could be anybody from a 16 year-old Senate page to Vice President Joe Biden. Either way, it is unlikely to be someone with first-hand knowledge of the contents of Ted Cruz’s head (that joke is too easy.) We don’t know, based on Politico‘s reporting, what clause the senator found objectionable. I am going to assume that it reads “WHEREAS, kittens are adorable…” Continue reading