L. Neil Smith's
Number 201, December 2, 2002


Amending the Constitution, Part 28
by Lehr Duquesne

Special to TLE

I know, every politician runs for office swearing to uphold the Constitution, and as soon as he finds out that it doesn't authorize his pet schemes, he either ignores his oath, or proposes to amend it. Maybe I'm no different. You be the judge.

Our Federal Constitution had a few problems from the get go. That noxious business about three fifths of a person was a bit of an embarrassment, but that was taken care of by the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments, and, on paper at least, all men have stood equally before the law ever since. And then there's that statement I just made about "all men", and that problem was addressed by the Nineteenth Amendment which gave women the vote in 1920. Better late than never, I reckon. So we have made some progress since the Bill of Rights was tacked on in 1791, and I sure wouldn't want to monkey with that.

On the other hand, there have also been some mistakes along the way. I have serious problems with the Sixteenth Amendment and the odious income tax, and I'd be happy to see that one go. And the Eighteenth Amendment which brought us America's First War on Drugs was a complete disaster, but that was taken care of by the Twenty-first Amendment, which nevertheless granted to the States the Authority to conduct their own Wars on Alcohol, but at least Prohibition was no longer a national disgrace, merely a local one.

So there's been some progress, some missteps along the way, and a few midcourse corrections, but by and large our Constitution (including its amendment provisions) has worked fairly well. But, like all would- be statesmen, I'm not quite satisfied. As I said, the Income Tax has got to go, and with it the Sixteenth Amendment which arguably grants it some measure of legitimacy.

Another big problem I have is with the Seventeenth Amendment. Prior to its ratification in 1913 the U.S. Senate stood squarely in the way of the federal juggernaut and its intended encroachments on the Rights of the States. It was designed to be the brakes on the federal engine. Our bicameral national legislature was brilliantly conceived as a balance between transient popular opinion, and legitimate State authority. The House of Representatives was the People's body, and the Senate stood up for the States. That's why a Senator's term is six years, whereas mine would be only two. The Senate was to be the senior deliberative body, holding back the House from its natural pandering proclivities. As it stands now, there are no significant differences between the philosophies or outlooks of the Houses of the Congress. Elected Senators are merely Super-Representatives, and are beholden to the same ephemeral interests that drive the House. Originally, a Senator was a respected member of a State body, typically an elder State Legislator or Governor who would go to the District of Columbia to represent the larger interests of his entire State, rather than the more parochial concerns of a Congressional District. Now, I'm hardly inclined to denigrate the House of Representatives, particularly as I'm running for that same body, but I am keenly aware of the differences, and wish to restore the balance that our Founders intended. Hence, as a member of the House, I will offer for consideration this proposed

Restoration of the Confederal Senate Amendment

Section I: The seventeenth article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed.

Section II: The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, chosen in accordance to the laws thereof, for six years, and each Senator shall have one vote.

When vacancies occur in the representation of any State in the Senate, the Executive Authority of such State may make temporary appointments until the People, the Legislature, or the Executive Authority thereof fill the vacancies in accordance with State Law.

Section III: This amendment shall not be so construed as to affect the term of any Senator elected before it becomes valid as part of the Constitution.

That puts the power squarely back where it belongs, in the hands of each individual State. If one State wishes to continue letting the people elect their Senators, then they will have the authority to do so. On the other hand, if a State prefers to return to the original method of charging the State legislature with that authority, then that too would be the prerogative of that particular State. And if a State would rather that its Governor be responsible for appointing its Senate Delegation, then that State's wishes would also be respected. The authority would be returned, in any event, to each State to function as it sees best. The United States were never intended to be an homogeneous flock of interchangeable administrative districts, but a Confederation of unique Sovereigns, each following its own lights.

John MacMullen's approach (TLE 200) is good. I think mine is better.
Lehr Duquesne


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