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The Ongoing GOP War on the 17th Amendment


If you had told me even 5 years ago that Republicans in 2018 would be openly moving toward attacking the direct election of senators, even someone as pessimistic as I am would not have believed it. But that is what we are seeing. With Republicans turning their backs on democracy and embracing authoritarianism, repealing the Progressive Era has moved beyond the fevered dreams of Karl Rove and Grover Norquist and toward reality.

Not content with simply shutting you out when it comes to knowing who is trying to buy elections, now Arizona’s leaders are hoping to shut you out when it comes to who you can vote for.

A committee of the Arizona Legislature this week approved a bill that would strip citizens of the power to nominate candidates for the U.S. Senate. Instead, the power would go to …

The Arizona Legislature.

No kidding.

HCR 2022 proposes that the state Legislature, rather than voters, decide who will be on the November ballot. No need for you to have any say in the primary about who will be nominated.

And no need for independents – who comprise a third of the state’s voters – to apply. The bill includes no method for independents or third-party candidates to be nominated. Instead, Republican legislators would nominate two Republicans and Democrats would nominate two Democrats and you’d be limited to their choices on the general-election ballot.

The bill cleared the committee this week on a 6-3 party-line vote and now goes to the full House.

There is one saving grace. If the Legislature approves it, it’ll have to go on the November ballot, giving voters the final say on whether they want to give up their rights.

The bill is aimed at taking us back a century – to before 1913, when senators were chosen by state legislatures, with no chance for the voters to weigh in.

Then along came the 17th Amendment, providing for the direct election of senators.

But not, apparently, the direct nomination of senators.

The bill is the brainchild of Rep. Travis Grantham, R-Gilbert, who says his proposal would provide balance to Congress, with senators accountable to the Legislature and House members accountable to voters.

Or it’ll just solidify a sizable amount of power in the hands of the Legislature.

Even if this were to pass the Arizona electorate, and I can’t imagine it would even come close, I don’t know whether it would stand up to the inevitable court challenge. But there’s almost no question that Alito, Thomas, and Gorsuch would uphold it, as would any other future Trump appointee. There is no reason to think that Republicans will turn away from increasingly direct attacks on the Seventeenth Amendment anytime soon.

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