Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., on Tuesday called to repeal the 17th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which requires U.S. senators to be elected by popular votes in each state, because of the Senate's growing bipartisan division.
"What would the Founding Fathers think of America if they came back to life?" Sasse wrote in an opinion piece for The Wall Street Journal. "I suspect they'd also be stunned by the deformed structure of our government. The Congress they envisioned is all but dead."
The Senate, he added, is the place where Americans "hammer out our biggest challenges with debate," but that has not happened for decades because "the rot is bipartisan."
Originally, Article I of the Constitution mandated that state legislatures vote to send two senators to Washington, D.C., but that changed with the 17th Amendment.
Sasse said in his article if the vote is returned to state legislatures, that could implement local control of the Senate.
The 17th Amendment, he wrote, replaced the appointment of senators with direct election, but the Senate's debate has shifted because politics has become "polarized and national" rather than under local control.
"That would change if state legislatures had direct control over who serves in the Senate," Sasse wrote.
He listed several other reforms in his article, including requiring senators to show up for debates, enacting term limits, and even requiring senators live together in dorms when they are in Washington.
Sasse also wrote cameras should be abolished, because "without posturing for cameras, Republicans and Democrats cooperate on some of America's most complicated and urgent problems," and said standing committees should be eliminated because they operate as "fiefdoms" that complicate decisions.
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