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InsiderOnline Blog: November 2012

We’ve Forgotten Why the Senate Was Created

If you’re worried about incompetence among senatorial candidates, then perhaps we should re-consider the 17th amendment, as Kathryn Ciano observes:

The whole point of the American founders’ decision to divide the legislature in the first place was to protect states’ rights in one house, free from bungling attempts like the [National Republican Senatorial Committee’s] to direct the popular will and influence special interest groups.

Enacted in 1913, the 17th Amendment restructured the government so that there is no difference between how senators and representatives are elected. This is in stark contrast to how the U.S. Constitution imagined the country would be run.

The Constitution outlined a legislative branch in which Americans didn’t actually directly elect senators—state legislators did. This reflected the fact that the House was intended to represent individuals’ rights, while the Senate stood for states’ rights. Individuals, the founders believed, would be better represented overall with two separate levels of accountability before submitting to the ultimate will of the federal government on high.

Federalism was an important principle for the founders, and federalism holds states’ rights paramount. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has gone so far as to note that since the 17th Amendment was ratified, “you can trace the decline of so-called states’ rights throughout the rest of the 20th century.” [Wall Street Journal, November 15]

Posted on 11/16/12 11:47 AM by Alex Adrianson

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