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NH VOTES ON 17th AMENDMENT RESOLUTION


Posted: May 6, 2004
1:15 AM Eastern
by NWV Staff Writer
© 2004 NewsWithViews.com

The New Hampshire General Court (state legislature) voted on a Seventeenth Amendment resolution February 18, 2004. The resolution failed and according to one state representative, the bill was sabotaged for political reasons. According to this source, "an experienced Rep (a committee chairman) referred to the HJR23 as "goofy" in a column he writes in a local paper." This confidential source also forwarded the following blurb posted on the House Calendar by a conservative Republican in the legislature:

HJR 23, relative to the process for choosing United States Senators. Inexpedient to Legislate

"Rep. Steve Vaillancourt for Election Law: The United States Constitution was amended in 1913 to call for the direct election of United States Senators by the people-at-large in all 50 states. Proponents of this legislation would take us back to the days when state legislatures selected United States senators. Obviously, such a change can only occur through the apparatus set out in the federal Constitution.

"The New Hampshire House is hardly the place to begin that process, but even if it were, this committee would be opposed to the idea. In an age of 24-hour news coverage, it seems cynical at best to suggest that people are incapable of choosing their own senators. Proponents argue that we are a republic rather than a democracy, but there is nothing inherently wrong with a Republican promoting Democratic ideas such as direct elections.

"On a practical level, election of senators by state legislatures would prove difficult since the two houses of state legislatures are often controlled by different parties (in 11 of the 50 states, currently). Such a proposal would most certainly lead to highly partisan choices. For example, is it likely that the Republican controlled North and South Dakota Legislatures would select Democratic senators?

"No, yet all four Dakota senators are currently Democrats. Similarly, although the Maine Legislature is Democratically controlled, the people of that state have chosen two Republican senators. There was no support in the committee for this anti-democratic proposal, and the committee rejects a sponsor's contention that democracy amounts to mob rule. Vote 13-2."

The bill read read as follows:

03-2037 - STATE OF NEW HAMPSHIRE In the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand Three

A RESOLUTION relative to the process for choosing United States Senators.

Whereas, the Founding Fathers came to a great compromise at the Constitutional Convention of 1787 and provided for proportional representation in the House of Representatives of the United States and equal representation for the states in the Senate of the United States; and

Whereas, the Founding Fathers determined that equal representation of the states in the Senate of the United States recognized the individual sovereignty of each state; and

Whereas, Alexander Hamilton in the Federalist Papers, Number 27, concluded that because the legislatures were "select bodies of men", the choice of United States Senators would generally be made "with peculiar care and judgment" by the legislatures, a selection process originally provided for in Article I, Section 3, Clause 1, of the Constitution of the United States; and

Whereas, James Madison in Federalist Papers, Numbers 37 through 48, concluded that a balance of powers between the branches of government and the levels of government (general, state, and the people) is necessary for stability, and detailed in Federalist Papers, Number 39, that the Senate deriving its power from the states is necessary to maintain the federal nature of the general government; and

Whereas, the 10th amendment declared a division of authority between the states and the United States and was for the first 140 years of this nation invoked by the Supreme Court of the United States as a constitutional limit of congressional power as against the powers of the several states; and

Whereas, the election of the United States Senators by the state legislatures was the political mechanism against congressional encroachment into the sovereignty of the states; and

Whereas, one of the essential aspects of the states' exercise of this political mechanism was the United States Senate's advice and consent for treaties and appointments of executive and judicial officers made by the President of the United States; and

Whereas, the ratification of the 17th amendment in 1913 changed the election of the United States Senators from the state legislatures to the popular vote of the people of the states, thereby divesting the states of any direct voice in the federal government; and

Whereas, because of the differing modes of representation and election in the House and the Senate prior to 1913, each branch provided a balance of legislative power against, and an independent check upon, the other; and

Whereas, prior to 1913, history reveals that in choosing their Senators, the individual state legislatures supported the federal government, thereby providing harmony between the governments of the states and the government of the United States; and

Whereas, the Congress of the United States has, since the ratification of the 17th amendment, steadily encroached upon the sovereignty of this and the other states united by and under the Constitution of the United States; and

Whereas, a Senator's general responsibility is to represent state government and the state legislature; and

Whereas, the state legislature has a role in compelling accountability from United States Senators; and

Whereas, a state has the right to prescribe its own procedures regarding the selection process for United States Senators, including appointments in the case of deadlock; now, therefore, be it

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court convened:

That the general court of the state of New Hampshire finds and declares to be defective the current process of electing United States Senators, which fails to represent the interests of the individual states; and

That the general court urges Congress, in accordance with Article V of the Constitution of the United States, to immediately transmit to the several states for ratification an amendment to the United States Constitution, as described in this resolution, repealing the 17th amendment and resolving the procedural problems, particularly the problem of the deadlocked state legislature, inherent in the original concept; and

That the amendment should read as follows:

Section 1. The seventeenth article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed.

Section 2. 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 3. Senators are subject to removal by the State legislature. Removal of a Senator requires a majority of each House of the State legislature.

Section 4. Congress is precluded from enacting any legislation affecting the senatorial selection process. Each State legislature shall enact rules and procedures, legislation, or state constitutional amendments as they see appropriate consistent with this amendment, related to the selection and removal of Senators. A State legislature may implement a selection procedure whereby the State legislature selects a Senator by a plurality vote rather than a majority. If a State legislature fails to enact a selection procedure, then the State legislature shall sit as a single body and shall select a Senator by a plurality vote. Irrespective of the procedures followed by the State legislature, if the State legislature does not choose a Senator within 30 days after a vacancy, the governor of the State shall select the Senator.

Section 5. This amendment shall not be construed in a way that affects the term of, or future method of voting for, any Senator chosen before the amendment becomes valid as part of the United States Constitution. All State legislative proceedings, including but not limited to those concerning procedural issues and the selection and removal of a Senator, are open to the public."; and

That copies of this resolution, signed by the speaker of the house of representatives and the president of the senate, be forwarded by them to the President of the United States Senate, to the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, to each member of the New Hampshire congressional delegation, and to the legislatures of the several states."

Supporters will continue their efforts to get another bill passed. Another individual who would like to see this effort renewed is Bill Benson, a former investigator with the Illinois Department of Revenue. For two decades, Benson has provided irrefutable proof to members of Congress that the Seventeenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was never legally ratified by the required 3/4ths of the states at the time of the vote. Benson visited all 48 state legislatures and obtained copies of the original documents which prove the fraudulent ratification of this amendment. To date, both Congress and the federal judiciary refuse to address Mr. Benson's proof that the Seventeenth Amendment is a law that does not exist.

While one conservative Republican in the NH state legislature might think HJR 23 was a "goofy" idea, it appears that this amendment has been given some careful thought by others. In a February 28, 1997 opinion piece by Junius Peake for the Denver Business Journal, Mr. Peake stated:

"The original framers of the Constitution were smart enough to have figured out a way to meet all three of these objectives. However, in a spate of populism, the 17th Amendment to the Constitution, which changed the way senators were elected, was ratified, thus negating much of the brilliance which created a fair balance of powers between the federal and state branches of government.

"Originally, the United States senators were elected -- two per state -- by their state legislatures; the 17th Amendment transferred their election to statewide plebiscites. This reduced the power of the states, and created another legislative body having many of the characteristics of the House of Representatives.

"Repealing the 17th Amendment to the Constitution would have immediate benefits: It would eliminate the need for the huge Senate campaigns we have today; would make the role of state legislators far more important that it is today; and reduce the power and size of the federal government."

In an extensive essay on the subject titled Far Reaching and Forgotten - the 17th Amendment, Nathan Lehman gives the reader a comprehensive analysis of the political times and motivation behind this amendment. Lehman also provides hard historical references to back up his arguments:

"James Madison, the great constitutional theorist and "Father of the Constitution," wrote in The Federalist that an indirectly elected Senate would act as "a defense to the people against their own temporary errors and delusions," and "blend stability with liberty." He viewed the state governments’ role in electing senators as a necessity in securing the unique character and interests of that legislative body. The Senate was designed to be a cautious and deliberate check to the sometimes dangerous whims of the people that would find their expression in the House of Representatives."

Montana State Legislature Votes on Seventeenth Amendment

On February 19, 2003, the Montana State Legislature voted on SJ-10: A Joint Resolution of the Senate of the Senate and House of Representatives of the State of Montana Declaring as Defective the Current Process of Choosing United States Senators.

With a few changes, this bill is identical to the one voted on in New Hampshire's legislature. The bill was defeated by a vote of 9-40. It is not known at this time if another effort will be made to reintroduce another bill as the next session doesn't convene until 2005.

Retiring U.S. Senator calls for rescission of the Seventeenth Amendment

On April 28, 2004, retiring U.S. Senator Zell Miller (D-GA) publicly called for the Seventeenth Amendment to be rescinded and return to the original intention of the Founding Fathers. Miller believes that doing away with the Seventeenth Amendment would be a powerful tool in clipping the wings of special interests groups and giving back power to state governments: "The individuals are not so much at fault as the rotten and decaying foundation of what is no longer a republic," Miller said on the Senate floor, according to the Associated Press. "It is the system that stinks. And it's only going to get worse because that perfect balance our brilliant Founding Fathers put in place in 1787 no longer exists."

Whether forward momentum on this issue continues will largely be left up to the citizens in the states of the Union to put pressure on their state legislators.

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"Repealing the 17th Amendment to the Constitution would have immediate benefits: It would eliminate the need for the huge Senate campaigns we have today; would make the role of state legislators far more important that it is today; and reduce the power and size of the federal government."