Writings and observations

WA Bill of the Day: Senate Memorial 8013

Among the more obscure enthusiasms of much of the Tea Party and some of its acolytes (including freshman Idaho Representative Raul Labrador) is the repeal of the 17th amendment: The one providing that U.S. senators be elected directly by the voters of each state, rather than by state legislatures, as had been the scandal-ridden procedure until about a century ago. Various Republican Party organizations have signed on to the idea as well.

Not a lot of attempt has been made to offer a public justification for taking away popular votes on senators. When the question was raised, the main response was along the lines of: It’s not really a major priority; it’ll never happen; move along, nothing to see here.

Cut to the Washington Senate today, where Senate Joint Memorial 8013 has been introduced by Senator Val Stevens, R-Arlington. The memorial proposes amending the U.S. constitution the subject of choosing and removing senators:

Section 1. The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, selected by the legislature of each State. Each Senator shall serve a six-year term and may be reappointed. Each Senator shall have one vote.
Section 2. Senators are subject to removal by the State Legislature. Removal of a Senator requires a majority of each House of the State Legislature.

So there it is: A formal proposal in a state legislature asking that the people no longer be allowed to vote for their senators. By all means read through this, affording as it does a fuller explication for the change. Among the bedrock thoughts underlying it: that “peculiar care and judgment” would be given to selection of senators by state legislators, as opposed to the voters; that “A Senator’s general responsibility is to represent state government and the State Legislature” as opposed to the people of the state; and that “The Legislature of the State of Washington finds and declares to be defective the current process of electing United States Senators” – in other words, the voters – the same people who selected the state legislators – are defective.

With such rationale, the measure isn’t likely to go far. And Stevens is well to the right even within the Senate Republican caucus – she’d probably have trouble getting most of them to go along. (A notable line from one of her fundraising letters: “Are the homosexuals finally going to take control of our culture and push their depraved lifestyle on our children and families?”)

But is the 17th repealer just a chimera? Not any more it isn’t.

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