Sociedad Bastiat

viernes, mayo 11, 2018

The 17th Amendment

 The United States Senate
The 17th Amendment
A Study of the US Senate

Jorge Maspons

A review of the origins of the United States Senate, why it was created and the change to the way it is elected today.

The 17th Amendment and Impeachment
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. (Article I, Section 3 US Constitution)
Note from Jorge: This is not about politics, it is about our Constitution and I hope it will be educational for some who read for the first time something about the Constitution.
 Many regretted the political nature of this process of "impeachment" or as I rather call it in Spanish "Imputation of charges" but that is precisely what the framers of the American Constitution had in mind when they formed and sent this document to the various States for ratification.  For them, the signers, "impeachment" was a political remedy to remove a President (and also federal judges) without shedding blood and in an orderly fashion.
   This procedure originates in the House of Representatives and then goes to the Senate which is the jury.  The judge for the trial is the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court
   The Senate that the Founders had in mind was very different than the one presiding it over the trial of President Clinton. Here is what the Constitution says about the Senate, "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." Article I, section 3 of the Constitution of the United States.
{Note: Two presidents have been impeached since ratification of the Constitution, first was Andrew Johnson and second was William J. Clinton.  Both were impeached but neither one convicted by the Senate}
   Most of the citizens, who have never studied the Constitution, believe that the Senate has always been elected by a direct vote of the people.  
    It may be very possible that comrade Clinton saved himself by the 17th Amendment to the Constitution, an amendment that was never mentioned during the debates in this process of "Impeachment." This amendment passed and ratified in 1913 changed the way by which senators are c hosen and it gave us the system we know and use today, i.e., in which federal Senators are chosen by a direct vote of the people instead of voting as it was originally designed, that is, by the Governments of the various States.
   Antidemocratic, someone may say? Let us see. Each State Government lawmakers were and are directly elected by the people, so the federal Senators also were chosen, although indirectly, by the people. But what is more important, this indirect system of choosing senators served as a very important political process.
   The framers of the Constitution during the convening of 1787 saw the necessity of placing a balance between the national Government in Washington and the sovereignty of the individual States. They divided the Congress into two houses based on two theories of representation: the House of Representatives to the people and the Senate to States collectively. For the House of Representatives or the "House of the People" the natural electorate were the people itself electing the representatives directly. For the Senate, however, the natural electorate was the Government in different States and the legislatures that each State had.  Senators were then selected and sent to Washington by the State Governments for representation of the entire population of each State respectively.
   Many issues in the Government would have constitutional sense if we remember the missions of each of the Houses that make up the Congress of the United States. For example: bills requiring tax originate in the House of Representatives because the Constitution-makers believed that the people could not be force to pay taxes except on their own initiative.
   The Constitution requires, however, ratification by the Senate, not the House of Representatives of the treaties so that they are valid.  Why?  Treaties committed both, the federal Government in Washington and the Governments of the States, so that those who represent the States should have the power to express themselves on the matter.
   Why are the House of Representatives, [the Prosecutor], the Senate [jury] and the Supreme Court Chief Justice [judge] involved in the trial of an "impeachment"? The framers of the Constitution reasoned that the people was more prone to get angry for an outrageous President and without shame, while the Governments of the various States seem to be more inclined to use care and firmness in judging the evidence. This also avoids the rampant process of the masses that happened in the days of the Wild West, hanging anyone without the benefit of a trial or judicial process.
   The 17th Amendment altered that delicate balance unfortunately resulting in the Senators becoming political sales always looking for the popular vote - in the same way that representatives do. The Senate became another House of Representatives.
    Since the year 1913 States, as entities, have not had anyone representing them in Congress, and this may be the reason why almost all States hire paid individuals to do politics in Washington, referred to or called "lobbyists" and established in offices near Capitol Hill. It can also be the reason that the federal Government has increased in size exponentially since then.
   In what regards this process of "Impeachment" the 17th Amendment removes the model or form through which the representatives of the people accuse and judge? It is now simply a group of politicians who are sensitive to the surveys leading lobbyists and to groups with similar sentiments to see where the wind blows.
   A Senate accountable to State legislators and less sensitive to public opinion would have more freedom to consider the evidence of the case on its merits. So therefore if you convict the President, although this decision was not popular with the voters or electors, each Senator could explain and defend your vote more easily to a small Assembly of lawmakers than before a vociferous mass of people.
   Prior to the adoption of the 17th Amendment, the outcome of this trial could have been different. When we changed the structure of our national Government, it also changed our destiny.
   In 1913 the 17th Amendment was ratified with the intention to change our destiny for the well-being of the country. This does not seem that it has been the result.  Now, States may not exercise sound power about senators, and also representatives and is one of the true causes of the conditions chaotic under which we find our nation today.
   If the 17th Amendment could be abolished and possibly again elect Senators through the legislatures of each State, more time and energy could be used in choosing good representative and state senators, who at the same time nominate and appoint the best Federal senators and remove or dismiss the bad guys.
   It should seem clear that the representation of the States in the Senate is the anchor that assures us a representative and Republican form of Government.
   The words of Benjamin Franklin keep coming back to me.  At the conclusion of the Constitutional Convention it is reported that as Franklin was stepping out of the Pennsylvania State House a lady confronted Franklin asking him, “Dr.  Franklin, what have you given us? And Franklin replying said, “Madam, we have given you a Republic” and added, -if you can keep it.  [3*]
   Benjamin Franklin’s fears are becoming a reality
Jorge Maspons
New Orleans, LA
May 2018
Recommended reading
1.      The Heritage Guide to the CONSTITUTION.  (Regnery Publishing.  Washington, DC)
2.      We Holds These Truths (Former Congressman Larry McDonald)
3.      Quotation by Benjamin Franklin: Outside Independence Hall when the Constitutional Convention of 1787 ended, Mrs. Powell of Philadelphia asked Benjamin Franklin, 'Well, Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?' With no hesitation whatsoever, Franklin responded, 'A republic, if you can keep it.'