If David Dewhurst and Sen. Dan Patrick (R-Houston) have their way, the people will no longer be able to elect their own senators. Rather, that privilege will be reserved for state politicians — 17th Amendment be darned. This was a major talking point at a debate Thursday between both candidates for Texas lieutenant governor.
Allowing state politicians to choose the nation’s senators would work out in the favor of conservative politicians, who have maintained a stronghold in some state legislatures due to gerrymandering, or drawing biased voting districts. Gerrymandering explains why, despite a nationwide Democratic majority, a disproportionate number of Republicans are voted into local office. If the 17th Amendment were abolished, these same politicians would vote for senators, enabling them to achieve a Washington majority as well.
Said Dewhurst: “Right now many members of Congress, United States senators and United States congressmen don’t have a feeling for what the states need. They feel separated. Believe me, with the absence — a reversal of the 17th Amendment — would make all of our United States senators listening daily to the heartbeat of the legislatures and not be passing the laws that cost all of us.”
Patrick mirrored the sentiment: “In the race for Lt. Governor, I was the one who began the conversation about this critically important issue. I unequivocally support the repeal of the 17th Amendment and the restoration of our Founders’ original intent to have the state legislatures select our United States senators.”
The 17th Amendment states, “The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each state, elected by the people thereof, for six years.”
The amendment was ratified in 1913. Before then, each state legislature would elect two senators. However, the system was easily rigged toward special interests, and in some cases deadlock plagued the process. In part, the 17th Amendment was passed to abolish the “millionaire’s club” born from the old system.
Other politicians that support the eradication of the 17th Amendment include Texas Senator Ted Cruz and Texas Governor Rick Perry.