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Feingold Aims to End Gubernatorial Appointmets

January 26, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

Following the botched gubernatorial Senate appointments in Illinois and New York recently, Wisconsin Democrat Sen. Russ Feingold is introducing a constitutional amendment into Congress that might actually stand a chance of passing:

>"The controversies surrounding some of the recent gubernatorial appointments to vacant Senate seats make it painfully clear that such appointments are an anachronism that must end. In 1913, the Seventeenth Amendment to the Constitution gave the citizens of this country the power to finally elect their senators. They should have the same power in the case of unexpected mid term vacancies, so that the Senate is as responsive as possible to the will of the people. I plan to introduce a constitutional amendment this week to require special elections when a Senate seat is vacant, as the Constitution mandates for the House, and as my own state of Wisconsin already requires by statute. As the Chairman of the Constitution Subcommittee, I will hold a hearing on this important topic soon."

Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight makes the crucial point that now is the best time to enact this amendment because, at the moment, neither party stands to gain from it politically:

>Now, then – excepting the minority of states that either require special elections or fix the party of the appointed senator – does either party stand to gain ground if the provision for gubernatorial appointment is removed?
>
>Based on the present configuration of senators and governors, not really. There are now 14 Republican senators that could and presumably would be replaced by Democratic governors if they deceased or decided to resign from the Senate. The Republicans will be in a better position to hold these seats if the Feingold amendment is passed. These senators are: Grassley (IA), Brownback (KS), Roberts (KS), Bunning (KY), McConnell (KY), Collins (ME), Snowe (ME), Bond (MO), Burr (NC), Gregg (NH), Voinovich (OH), Specter (PA), Alexander (TN), and Corker (TN).
>
>Likewise, there are 14 Democratic senators who would presumably be replaced by Republicans. The Democrats will be in a better position to hold these seats if the Feingold amendment is passed. These are Senators Boxer (CA), Feinstein (CA), Dodd (CT), Nelson (FL), Bayh (IN), Franken (MN), Klobuchar (MN), Conrad (ND), Dorgan (ND), Nelson (NE), Reid (NV), Reed (RI), Whitehouse (RI), Johnson (SD). (Joe Liberman (CT) would make 15, if you consider him to be a Democrat.)

Constitutional amendments require passage by a two-thirds majority in both the Senate and the House, plus ratification from three-fourths of the states. The Constitution was last amended in 1992 (27th amendment), though dozens are proposed in Congress each session. Here are a few that have already been introduced this session:

H.J.Res.5 – Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States to repeal the twenty-second article of amendment, thereby removing the limitation on the number of terms an individual may serve as President.
H.J.Res.13 – Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States relating to limitations on the amounts of contributions and expenditures that may be made in connection with campaigns for election to public office.

H.J.Res.15 – Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States to authorize the line item veto.
S.J.Res.4 – A joint resolution proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States to abolish the electoral college and to provide for the direct popular election of the President and Vice President of the United States.
H.J.Res.6 – Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States relating to voluntary school prayer.

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