Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) is calling for a strong re-assertion of states rights against Congress — in the form of a Constitutional amendment to eliminate the direct popular election of Senators, and go back to the pre-17th Amendment setup of state legislatures appointing them.
“Ever since the safeguard of State legislatures electing U.S. Senators was removed by the 17th Amendment in 1913, there has been no check or balance on the Federal power grab for the last 97 years,” Gohmert said in a press release, calling for a constitutional convention of the states. “Article V requires a minimum of 34 states to request a Convention which in this case, would be an Amendment Convention for only ONE amendment.”As Dave Weigel points out, this setup would result in Democrats losing a few Senate seats under the current balance of power in the state legislatures. On the other hand, as Media Matters notes, Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) could have never been elected under this system — the Democratic legislature in Massachusetts would have selected a Democrat to fill the seat, and that would have been that.
It should also be noted that the pre-17th Amendment system was prone to quirks of the district-based systems for state legislatures, on those rare occasions when a state legislative election effectively became a referendum on the Senate seat. For example, Abraham Lincoln’s Republicans won the popular vote in the 1858 Illinois legislative/Senate race, but Stephen Douglas’s Democrats benefited from an outdated and badly apportioned district map that preserved their majority. Lincoln carried Illinois against Douglas in the presidential election two years later, in a statewide vote that was not dependent on districts.