The 17th Amendment (direct election of senators) to the U.S. Constitution should be repealed. It has done more damage to the integrity of our political system than almost anything else. It has made it easy for Congress to enact unconstitutional laws, destroyed federalism, which was an important check on federal power, and has ironically given more power to special interest groups over the people it was intended to benefit the most – the common citizen.
Now, on the surface, there were good reasons for the 17th Amendment and I am not about to question the motives of a generation of politicians that also gave us the income tax, Federal Reserve System, and a slew of federal bureaucracies. The amendment came about because the legislature appointment system was fraught with peril. There were times when consecutive state legislatures sent competing senators to Congress, forcing the Senate to determine which member was the rightful representative. It was also tainted by bribery, nepotism, and corruption. Lastly, it was felt that giving the people the ability to directly choose their senators through the ballot box was a much more democratic process than the legislature appointment process which all too often consisted of backroom deals in state capitals.
However, the politicians of that time, much like our own, did not consider the long-term effects of their actions and were not versed in constitutional doctrine. Because if they were the 17th would have been met with great resistance. For one thing, it has led to the enactment of many unconstitutional laws – laws that are within the jurisdiction of the states under the Constitution. If you read this blog on a regular basis you will recall that Congress has 18 enumerated powers under Article 1 Section 8 of the Constitution. All others, like environmental law, disabled persons’ acts, healthcare, education legislation, and so forth are the domain of state legislatures solely under the 10th Amendment. Recently, I had someone comment that at the end of Article 1 section 8 it says, “To make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all other powers vested by this Constitution in the government of the United States, or in any department or officer thereof” implying that Congress has “other powers” like education, healthcare etc… not specified in that section. Wrong. Correctly read, the “other powers” refers to making laws necessary for carrying out duties of the other areas of the government. An example is found in Article 2 Section 2 where Congress has the power to by law make certain appointments.