Reforming the U.S. Senate and ending the Imperial Presidency to restore American Democracy
This article is the third part of a six-part series, “Constitutional Changes to Restore American Democracy: Reforming the U.S. Senate and ending the Imperial Presidency.” Click here to read Part One: “The Undemocratic U.S. Senate.”
The experience of Great Britain shows that transforming the U.S. Senate into a reviewing and advisory body, will help restore American democracy. British experience also shows that the House of Representatives should have total power to make laws, with the advice of the Senate and the President. To use the phrasing of the federal courts, the Senate should “sit as a super-legislature to judge the wisdom of statutes,” but not prevent their passage.
Likewise, allowing the Senate to delay passage of a law will provide time to mobilize public opinion before the House of Representatives sends the bill to the President. However, the number of Representatives needed to override a veto by the president should be reduced from two-thirds to the simple majority needed to pass a bill. The Senate should not be part of the veto override process.
Constitutional Changes to restore Democracy
These changes will make the Senate an advisory body, and help end the “Imperial Presidency.” With these reforms, the House of Representatives will become the true voice of the People:
- Powers Transferred to Congress. The House of Representatives shall gain the power to confirm presidential appointees and federal judges, and remove them through impeachment. The House shall also decide whether or not to ratify treaties.
- Powers Removed from the Senate. The U.S. Senate shall lose the power to block the legislation and deny confirmation of presidential appointees and federal judges. Also, the Senate will no longer hold impeachment trials, nor prevent the ratification of treaties.
- Election of Senators. The 17th Amendment shall be repealed. Instead, state legislatures will again appoint Senators. In the alternative, state legislatures shall elect one Senator each. Additional Senators shall be selected by national proportional representation. Every party may designate one U.S. senator for every 5% of the national party-preference vote that they receive. This way, the U.S. can safely experiment with proportional representation, and test the claims of its proponents.
- Senate to Review Acts of Congress. Either house may introduce bills, and each house may review bills the other house passes. The President shall receive all bills that the Senate approves without amendment, or does not vote on within 30 days. The Senate shall return to the House all bills it amends or rejects within 30 days of receipt. All bills that the Senate returns to the House shall be sent to the President if the House re-approves said bill, with any amendments that it accepts.
- Veto Procedure Amended: The House of Representatives may override any veto by the president by a majority of the members serving. A vote of the Senate shall not be required to override a veto.
In short, sections three and seven of Article I, section two of Article II, and the 12th, 14th, and 17th amendments to the Constitution would be repealed or reformed. Part Five of this article will address the need for the House to control impeachment.
Why the 17th Amendment should be repealed.
After reforming the Senate this way, the body must have the best people to review the laws that Congress proposes. Repealing the 17th amendment will allow state legislatures to appoint the best people to represent their state. Although many Senators will probably still be senior politicians and rich campaign donors, states could also choose to appoint senior attorneys and judges, physicians, teachers, arts administrators, professors of law, economics, sociology, and urban planning, and similar experts whose knowledge and wisdom is needed in Washington.
Therefore, remaking the U.S. Senate into an advisory body, and repealing the 17th amendment, will strengthen our democracy and prepare the nation for the challenges of the 21st century, and beyond.
Part Four: Protecting Citizens of Small-Population States (click here)