The Amended Constitution – Article I, Section 3
Clause 1: The original text reads:
The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, chosen by the Legislature thereof, for six Years; and each Senator shall have one Vote.
I have no problem with this as originally written (although I still think a term limit should probably be added somewhere here). What I have a problem with is the Seventeenth Amendment which changed the election of senators from being a function of the individual state legislatures to a direct popular vote by the electorate of the states (later on I’ll discuss in greater detail why this is a bad thing when I dissect the individual amendments).
Clause 2: The original text reads:
Immediately after they shall be assembled in Consequence of the first Election, they shall be divided as equally as may be into three Classes. The Seats of the Senators of the first Class shall be vacated at the Expiration of the second Year, of the second Class at the Expiration of the fourth Year, and of the third Class at the Expiration of the sixth Year, so that one third may be chosen every second Year; and if Vacancies happen by Resignation, or otherwise, during the Recess of the Legislature of any State, the Executive thereof may make temporary Appointments until the next Meeting of the Legislature, which shall then fill such Vacancies.
Again, I have no problem with this as originally written, the changes affected by the Seventeenth Amendment notwithstanding. In fact, I wonder if it wouldn’t be beneficial for the representatives’ terms to be staggered as well, especially if my recommendation for longer individual terms was to be adopted.
Clause 3: The original text reads:
No Person shall be a Senator who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty Years, and been nine Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State for which he shall be chosen.
See my comments in my previous rant on Article One, Section Two (Clause 2) for my views on minimum ages and residency/citizenship requirements for representatives. The same view applies here for senators.
Clause 4: The original text reads:
The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no Vote, unless they be equally divided.
I’m a bit nervous about this. While clearly the framers were careful to preserve the integrity of the legislature by not granting the veep a vote in his role as President of the Senate except in the case of an exact tie, the potential for executive interference on those rare occasions when a senate vote is deadlocked is still there. Still, I’m not sure that there is any other realistic or workable alternative to break a tie without either tabling a vote or calling for “run off” counts. Suggestions, anyone?
Clause 5: The original text reads:
The Senate shall chuse [sic] their other Officers, and also a President pro tempore, in the Absence of the Vice President, or when he shall exercise the Office of President of the United States.
No problem with this as written.
Clause 6: The original text reads:
The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments. When sitting for that Purpose, they shall be on Oath or Affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside: And no Person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two thirds of the Members present.
I have a problem with the senate “trying” impeachments; perhaps another term should be used. The problem lies in the well-established fact that the separation of powers through checks and balances has long been proven a chimera. More importantly, the term “trial” is misleading; these “trials” by the senate have no legal standing in the traditional and accepted sense of the word. As Clause 7 points out, the sole punishment that the senate can mete out to a sitting president, federal judge or anyone other official accused of malfeasance of office through impeachment is removal from that office. Hence, the term “hearing” of an impeachment is probably more accurate. What is lacking in this amendment is legal teeth; that is, an officeholder shall face a mandatory criminal indictment if impeached. If conduct is sufficient to warrant removal from office, then it is certain that grounds for indictment on felony crime charges should follow.
Clause 7: The original text reads:
Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States: but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment, according to Law.
I’m trying to think of a way to modify the wording here so as to firmly state that anyone removed from office following an impeachment hearing shall, in all cases, be indicted by a federal grand jury and face criminal charges. I’m open to suggestions as to how best to word this. The point is to force the legislature to take action against those guilty of official misconduct. Perhaps a review of other portions of the document is in order to set mandatory grounds for impeachment, as well as penalties against legislators for failing to keep the house clean, so to speak.
Next: Article I, Section 4