The Constitution of the United States allows state legislatures to empower governors to fill vacancies temporarily in their state's Senate seats. Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) has proposed a constitutional amendment to eliminate the right of governors to make appointments to the U.S. Senate when a vacancy occurs.
When the 17th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified in 1913, the provision in Article I that provided the appointment of senators by the state legislature was replaced by the direct election of senators by the people of their state. Direct election was not only considered more democratic, but the Progressives who promoted the Amendment cited the greater difficulty in corrupting a majority of the entire electorate than just a majority of the state legislature. But the Amendment retained the provision for gubernatorial appointment of senators, although only temporarily until the legislature calls an election within two years of the appointment.
This last vestige of the appointment of senators ought to be retained. It has been bad enough that we have the direct election of senators in the first place. The Framers of the Constitution created a bicameral legislature so that one house would represent the people (the House of Representatives) and the other (the Senate) would represent the states. Because of the 17th Amendment, now both houses represent the people and neither represents the states. Therefore, the Senate has itself become relatively populist instead of being a check on the populist House of Representatives. Now senators and candidates for the Senate favor popular positions regardless of the worthiness of those positions. As a result, instead of attempting to bribe a majority of the state legislature, candidates for the Senate now attempt to bribe a majority of the entire electorate with promises of government money or other favors, at the expense of the rest of the people.
The other problem with the direct election of U.S. senators is the decline of federalism, as no one in Congress represents the interest of states. Indeed, senators even engage in "constituent service" for the citizens of their states, even though their only constituent is their state itself. As a result, the federal government now regards every subject that it wants to as its domain and every state its province. There are no limits to the growth of the power of the federal government.
Eliminating gubernatorial appointments of senators would make the senate even more populist and further undermine the principle of federalism.
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