James Madison and the 17th Amendment

Founding Father James Madison was not an imposing figure, standing only about 5 foot, 4 inches and weighing less than 100 pounds — think Victoria Beckham after a month-long fast. George Washington called him "a withered little apple."

He may not have been imposing to look at, but he was an intellectual force to be reckoned with.

He was a major player at the Constitutional Convention and is often referred to as the "father of the Constitution." And what better source to go to in order to talk about something I've been thinking a lot about lately: the 17th Amendment.

Do you know about the 17th Amendment? It was passed in 1913 — Woodrow Wilson supported this. Immediately now, when I see that Woodrow Wilson something, I can be quite certain that it's not going to be a good outcome.

Before 1913, U.S. senators were appointed by state legislatures. Madison explained that the House of Representatives would always be regarded as the "national" institution because its members were elected directly by the people. But the Senate, on the other hand, would derive its powers from the states.

The idea was to have the senators be the representatives of the states' interests — sort of a like a lobbyist for the state. You'd think progressive would have liked that.

The 17th Amendment changed that and instituted direct popular election of United States senators: Two senators from each state, elected by the people. And since that time, states have had no direct representation in Washington.

In 1821, Thomas Jefferson warned: "When all government, domestic and foreign, in little as in great things, shall be drawn to Washington as the centre of all power, it will render powerless the checks provided of one government on another, and will become as venal and oppressive as the government from which we separated."

Progressives will tell you that the change was needed because the states were becoming too corrupt. Well, what's happened since? It allowed special interests to lobby senators directly, cutting out the middleman of the state legislatures.

Has anyone else noticed that senators routinely get large influxes of campaign cash from outside the state? Remember Chris Dodd? I didn’t know anyone in Connecticut who was ready to give money to Chris Dodd. Yet he was getting tons of cash nationally. How is that representative of Connecticut?

Let me give you an example of the 17th Amendment coming into play today: Obama's health care bill would never have seen the light of day. A senator looking out for the interest of their state would likely not even consider anything with an unfunded federal mandate attached to it. Think of a state like Massachusetts: Why would they pay more taxes for mandated health care that they already currently have?

James Madison and the Founders didn't intend for the federal government to have that much power. What would they do if they were around today?

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