Since the passage of the Bill of Rights, the United States Constitution has been amended just 17 times. The process is intentionally cumbersome and difficult. The process is designed to ensure all amendments are necessary and popular enough to have a place in our sacred American text.
In recent years, many have proposed amendments to this document ranging from issues of marriage to taxation. Most amendment ideas are controversial and don’t make it into the pages of the American framework.
However, a couple of events in the last year have made one constitutional amendment increasingly necessary. All members of the United States Congress, representatives and senators, must be directly elected by their respective district or state.
The ascension of Barack Obama to the presidency last fall led to a complicated, constitutional debate over the legality of Senator Roland Burris’s appointment by embattled Governor Rod Blagojevich. In the end, while being pushed out the door, Blagojevich managed to appoint a Senator.
Recent days have sparked another slice of this issue that doesn’t deal with corruption, but with politics. While the Burris appointment was an act of defiance by a corrupt leader, the current issue in Massachusetts is a political ploy for power.
The Massachusetts legislature, controlled by the Democratic Party, is poised to pass a bill that would allow the Governor Deval Patrick, also of the Democratic Party, to appoint an interim senator to fill Ted Kennedy’s vacant seat.
Now this act might not seem maliciously political because it looks like the state is simply trying to get another voice in the Senate during a time of importance. However, five years ago, the same legislature, controlled by the Democratic Party, voted to take this power away from Republican Governor Mitt Romney.
In other words, Democratic governors are allowed to appoint senators and Republican governors aren’t.
The theoretically appointed senator would only serve until the January election, but that extra Senate vote is critical. Granted, the appointee would replace a liberal senator just as Burris did, but a 60th Democratic senator has important consequences.
In theory, if all governors were virtuous and the laws didn’t change based on who is in power, an appointment by the governor would be acceptable in the short term. However, it has become increasingly clear in the last year that those stipulations will not be met in our time.
We need a constitutional amendment requiring that all members of the United States Congress be elected by the people. Allowing each state to make its own rules has simply been a failed exercise in federalism.
Now is the time for a 28th amendment. Join me in demanding one.