Tea Party supporters have been calling for repeal of the 17th Amendment of the United States Constitution.
The Tea Party populist movement, opposing several Federal initiatives including the 2009 bank bailout and stimulus package, hopes to change the way US senators are elected. Tea Party activists advocate turning back the clock to 1913, when Senators were elected by state legislatures.
The rationale is that the old system for electing US senators would reduce the power of the federal government by empowering state legislatures to elect senators.
The 17th Amendment to the United States Constitution established direct election of United States senators by popular vote.
Originally, a senator was elected by the legislature of a state, and was expected to represent the state government within the federal government. This was expected to help keep the balance between federal and state authority.
The Amendment reads: “The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, elected by the people thereof, for six years; and each Senator shall have one vote …”
It is unclear, however, how much support Tea Party advocates have for their initiative.
"The nation’s founders didn’t really trust voters with the job [of voting in senators]," said The New York Times’ David Firestone in an editorial.
"The people were given the right to elect House members. But senators were supposed to be a check on popular rowdiness and factionalism. They were appointed by state legislatures, filled with men of property and stature."
Firestone believes that State legislature-elected Senators would not be suitable for the contemporary American reality: "A modern appreciation of democracy — not to mention a clear-eyed appraisal of today’s dysfunctional state legislatures — should make the idea unthinkable …"
Nationwide, a large block of the Tea Party movement are working to repeal the 17th Amendment. In Idaho two candidates in the Republican primary for the First Congressional District race, advocated for repealing it.
Republican candidate Steve Stivers, in the campaign to represent Ohio, supports repealing of the 17th Amendment, and in Utah Republican Senator Robert Bennett was unseated by Tim Bridgewater, whose website proclaims, "We traded senators who represent rights of states for senators who represent the rights of special interest groups."