WASHINGTON – Zell Miller (search), Georgia's maverick Democratic senator, says the nation ought to return to having senators appointed by legislatures rather than elected by voters.
Miller, who is retiring in January, was first appointed to his post in 2000 after the death of Paul Coverdell (search). He said Wednesday that rescinding the 17th Amendment (search), which declared that senators should be elected, would increase the power of state governments and reduce the influence of Washington special interests.
"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. "It is the system that stinks. And it's only going to get worse because that perfect balance our brilliant Founding Fathers (search) put in place in 1787 no longer exists."
The Constitution called for voters to directly elect members to the U.S. House but empowered state legislatures to pick senators. The aim was to create a bicameral Congress (search) that sought to balance not only the influence of small and large states but also the influence of state and federal governments.
Miller said that balance was destroyed in 1913 with the ratification of the 17th Amendment. He has introduced a resolution, which he acknowledges has no chance of passage, to repeal the 17th Amendment and again let state legislatures pick senators.
Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., suggested Miller and others were treating the Constitution as a "rough draft" by proposing a series of recent amendments to require a balanced federal budget, define marriage and criminalize flag burning.
"We are the example of representative self-government in this world that works," Dorgan said. "It's messy, the noise of democracy is annoying sometimes, but it works."
Miller has ruffled the feathers of Democratic colleagues before. Though elected as a Democrat, he has endorsed President Bush for re-election, sided with Republicans on virtually every key issue and written a best-selling book in which he accuses his party of being out of touch with Southern voters.