Episode 6 of the Constitutional podcast: ‘Senate and states’

Jeffrey Rosen, president of the National Constitution Center, and Betty Koed, the U.S. Senate historian.

Listen to the episode here.

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Transcript of “Episode 06: Senate and states”

Lillian Cunningham: For the first 100-plus years of American history, senators weren’t elected by the people–they were chosen by the state legislatures. This was supposed to buffer the Senate from the masses; and bring an extra level of prestige and dignity to the office.

But when the framers of the Constitution came up with that system, they failed to account for some of the pitfalls–including what would happen if two political parties, within a single state, butted heads against each other and couldn’t agree in the legislature which senators to send to Washington.

By the turn of the 20th century, with a two-party system in full force, that initial oversight was spinning out of control.

Betty Koed: In Missouri in 1905, the election process became so contentious that it ended in this major fist fight in the state legislature. And George Haynes, one of the great historians of the Senate, described it this way: The Republicans had tried to turn back the clock literally in the chamber so that they would have more time to promote their candidate. And this so irritated the Democrats that the Democrats picked up the ladder they had been using to reach the clock and threw it out the window.

Cunningham: Then, a massive brawl broke out.

Koed: A fist fight followed. Desks were torn from the floor and a fusilade of books began. The glass of the clock front was broken.

Cunningham: The pendulum itself was still swinging. One of the members picked up ink bottles and hurled them one after another after another at the pendulum.

Koed: As a motion to adjourn arose in wild disorder, the presiding officers of both houses mounted on top of the speaker’s desk and, by shouting and waving their arms, tried to quiet the mob down.

Cunningham: One of the ink bottles hit the pendulum at just the right angle and, smack, time suddenly stopped ticking.

A perfect union? Not so much.

I’m Lillian Cunningham with The Washington Post, and this is Constitutional.

[Introductory theme music]

Cunningham: When the framers drafted the Constitution, they had a dilemma before them — how to successfully unite the states and strengthen their collective identity, without stripping away their individual power.

In practical terms, that led to the question: What should representation for the different states look like in order to create a “more perfect union”?

Well in response, the framers came up with a structure for Congress, and how we would divvy up representatives between the House and the Senate. And that framework is basically still intact today. With one very notable exception: how we elect senators.

Koed: The direct election of senators is certainly the biggest change that has ever been made to the framers’ vision of the Senate and its members and how they’re elected.

Cunningham: This is Betty Koed, the official U.S. Senate historian. And that change took the form of the 17th amendment, ratified in 1913. It updated the Constitution to finally give voters the power to directly elect senators themselves, instead of having state legislatures pick them.

But not everyone has agreed that shift was for the better. Former Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia, for example, once said: “The 17th Amendment has changed things enormously.” And because of its passage “you can trace the decline of so-called states’ rights throughout the rest of the 20th century.”

Now, Scalia isn’t alone. In the past decade, as the Tea Party movement gained steam, several conservative voices (like politicians Mike Lee and Rick Perry) called for repeal of the 17th Amendment. Like Scalia, they said it upset the balance of power between the states and the federal government — constraining states’ rights.

So let’s explore the story of why direct election of senators came about, and whether it did mark a step toward or away from “a more perfect union.”

In the early days of America, up until the writing of the Constitution, the states had been working off a document called the Articles of Confederation and they had come together to form the Continental Congress. But it wasn’t going so well.

Jeffrey Rosen: Very quickly the Articles of Confederation began to fail as an instrument of government.

Cunningham: This is National Constitution Center president Jeffrey Rosen, who was on our first episode.

Rosen: States weren’t paying their taxes to the national government. States were violating the rights of other citizens. Congressional resolutions were ignored. And this abuse of power by state mobs or state legislatures led to tremendous anxiety on behalf of leaders such as James Madison and Alexander Hamilton that state legislatures were sources of tyranny. So it’s decided that we need a stronger federal government.

Cunningham: But the question then becomes, what should this stronger government look like? And what authority should the states have under it?

Koed: In 1787, when the delegates to the Constitutional Convention met in Philadelphia, there was a lot of debate about representation. How would representation be based? That was a great bone of contention.

Cunningham: And it was contentious for a few reasons. For one thing, the big states and the small states had very different perspectives on whether the states should all have equal representation, or whether bigger states should have more power and smaller states should have less power.

But also:

Rosen: There was a lot of disagreement about exactly how strong that national government should be, and how to empower the national government while still protecting the states.

The most ardent nationalist in the Constitutional Convention was Alexander Hamilton. He made a radical proposal to abolish all states. He wanted a truly national government without the risk of independent sovereign states. He warned against the ambitions of state demagogues who hated central control.

Cunningham: So Hamilton is far to one end of the spectrum, but there are others like James Madison and the peg-legged, preamble writer Gouverneur Morris who — while they don’t think we should get rid of states — do think a strong federal government is important. They propose a plan where the number of representatives in Congress will be entirely based on states’ population numbers — meaning, the bigger states will have more members. And they do this because they don’t think it’s very important that all states have equal power and an equal voice.

These turn out to be the hottest debates at the convention. Some delegates, like William Patterson of New Jersey, argue that all states should have exactly the same number of representatives.

Ultimately, of course, they end up with a compromise. They decide on a House of Representatives — where each state has a different number of members based on population — and then a Senate, where each state has the exact same number of members: two.

Rosen: So William Paterson lost the battle of the states as independent sovereign entities, but he did succeed in persuading the delegates to recognize in the Senate — where every state has two representatives regardless of its size — a principle of independent state sovereignty that continues today.

Cunningham: Interestingly, even though this debate about representation takes a really long to resolve, the question of how to elect these representatives is solved really quickly — even though there are a number of ideas initially proposed.

Koed: They considered several options. For one they could have the House of Representatives elect senators, but that didn’t seem particularly practical because the Senate was designed in part to be a check on the House. And how could you check the house if they’re responsible for your election? Another one was to just give senators lifetime appointments. Alexander Hamilton favored that one. Another one was to do straight popular vote election, the way we do today.  

Cunningham: This idea — that voters in the states could directly elect their two senators — was put forward by delegate James Wilson.

Rosen: James Wilson must be the most underappreciated of the constitutional framers. It was Wilson who came up with the idea that we the people of the United States as a whole were sovereign, rather than we the people of the individual states.

Cunningham: But everyone else at the convention shot down Wilson’s idea that “we the people” should have the power to elect our own senators.

Koed: That was deemed at the time to be fairly impractical and would not be consistent with the Senate that they were envisioning in 1787.

Cunningham: James Madison and basically all the other delegates end up thinking that what makes the most sense is for senators to just be chosen by the state legislatures.

Rosen: Because they thought that state legislatures would be wise intermediaries, who would check popular passions and ensure that only the best people were chosen to serve in the Senate.

Cunningham: But Wilson was still skeptical. On June 20th, 1787, he warned his fellow delegates at the convention that state legislatures were likely to end up jealous and in friction with the federal government — and that would prevent these legislatures from purely representing the best interests of their citizens.

Then on June 25th, Wilson made one last case for popular election, saying: Both the state governments and the general government were “derived from the people — both meant for the people — both therefore ought to be regulated on the same principles.” And what he meant was: Since citizens get to elect all their representatives at the state level, why shouldn’t they be allowed to elect all their representatives at the federal level as well?

He said: This new government ultimately shouldn’t really be about uniting and serving the states, it should be about uniting and serving the people of those states. So, “the individuals therefore not the states ought to be represented in it.”

But Wilson is still outnumbered. And the decision to have state legislatures elect senators gets written into the Constitution.

Koed: Now this had great tradition behind it, because this was actually the way the Confederation Congress and the Continental Congress before it had been elected. So that was the system they were used to. Another reason they chose this system of election for senators was because they needed states to ratify the Constitution. And so they had to be sure that they were giving something to the states in return for building this new federal government, which many states saw as taking away their powers and their privileges.

Cunningham: The framers also envisioned senators playing a different role in supporting and improving American democracy than members of the House would.

Koed: They really wanted the Senate to be a very different body from the house. Whereas the House members were there to represent particular districts or sections of states and they were facing re-election every two years, so they had to be very cognizant of public opinion and how they could work public opinion to shape their own careers. On the Senate side, they didn’t want it directly answerable to the people. They didn’t want it to be influenced by the tides of public opinion. They wanted to give it some distance and some protection from the whims of the voters.

Cunningham: That’s why, in addition to having the senators elected by state legislatures, they decided senators should serve longer terms than those in the House (six years, rather than two); senators should also be older (at least 30 years old, instead of 25); and they had to have been citizens for a longer time.

Koed: And by going to the state legislatures for these choices, they really thought they would get individuals who had long service in government. So they were people who would know their states well and they would be people who would have strong connections to the state governments.

And that was true of many of the early senators. You know we had people like Oliver Ellsworth of Connecticut, who was one of the great legal brains of the early Senate. He was the author of the Judiciary Act that created the federal judiciary.

Cunningham: The framers of the Constitution had also given the Senate specific powers that the House didn’t have.

Koed: Most importantly the powers of advice and consent. So they were there to advise the president. They were there to consent to or reject treaties or nominations, and they were also there to be the sole power to try impeachment. So all of these things gave the Senate this kind of advisory role that had not been given to the House.

Cunningham: So this all sounds great. It goes into effect. And for several decades, the process of states choosing their senators goes quite smoothly. No one gives much more thought to James Wilson’s lone pushback at the convention that senators should be popularly elected. Until: the middle of the 1800s.

Koed: The issue really starts to heat up. And it heats up largely because we’re coming into a time really in our national history when we’re developing two very strong political parties. The Republican Party is born in the mid 1850s; the Democratic Party has grown much stronger in the last 20 years. And so partisan issues are becoming much more important in American politics. By the 1850s, you start to see deadlocks in state legislatures.

Cunningham: The kind of deadlocks that led to fights like the one in Missouri, where the state legislature erupted into an all-out brawl. And these partisan battles in legislatures across the country got people thinking that maybe our system for electing senators wasn’t quite working.

As a first attempt at fixing the system, Congress passed a new law in 1866 that tried to standardize the process for Senate elections. It set a consistent date for holding the elections, and it required that state legislatures take one vote every single day for as long as it took to get a majority winner.

Unfortunately, this didn’t really resolve the deadlocks. It just consumed a ton of the state legislature’s time and meant that Senate seats could go months, sometimes years, without being filled.

Koed: By the time you get to the 1880s and 1890s, the inability of state legislatures to settle on a candidate became increasingly problematic. There was a case in North Carolina when they had 85 candidates that came forward for one seat and none of those candidates were ever able to get a majority vote. And so even though the state legislature voted over and over and over 200 in some ballots they weren’t able to settle on one candidate.

Cunningham: And these deadlocks and Senate vacancies weren’t the only problem.

Koed: When we go into the gilded age, you get larger and larger and more difficult cases coming before the Senate of corruption. Over the course of the 1870s to the turn of the century, we had nine high-profile bribery cases in the Senate. And some of them have to do with the electoral process itself, for instance bribery of state legislators became a problem by the 1880s and 1890s — when people were offering bribes of various forms to legislators to actually elect a person as a senator.

At the same time the Senate itself is changing, America is changing. This is a period of the rise of big business. This is a time of industrialists and financiers. This is a time when elections are getting caught up in money issues and campaign issues and campaign-finance issues. And the attention that gets throughout the 1890s and the early 20th century, really helps to stoke those calls for reform.

It’s just a growing awareness of the Senate becoming what at that time was called the millionaires club. It was people who were elected from big business, people who were elected that were tycoons of industry, people who had really strong ties to the monied interest in America.

Cunningham: People like industrialist Simon Guggenheim. Or railroad magnate William Clark, who reportedly bribed state legislators for his Senate seat and when questioned about it, famously responded, “I never bought a man who wasn’t for sale.”

Koed: And so you got people elected to the Senate who were very wealthy, who were very powerful. Some of them were answerable to the demands of the people, some of them were not. But it really shaped an overall reputation of the Senate to be just this body of millionaires who really have no connection to the common man.

And there was a lot of truth to that. It’s not the complete Senate, but there was a lot of truth to that issue.

Cunningham: Many of these wealthy senators were coming out of the eastern and the mid-Atlantic states. But a different sort of tide was rising in the West.

Koed: In the West, they were more progressive. They were more populist and they looked for people that would come in with new ideas and new reform impulses. And they’re frustrated with the inability to get any sort of reform passed in Washington. And so they start to look for ways they can make that reform happen at the state level.

By the 1890s that western states are moving towards creating their own system of direct popular election of senators. One of the states that led the way was Oregon, and they came up with this ingenious plan.

Cunningham: Oregon basically did two things — it gave citizens the opportunity to tell their state legislators who they thought should be their senators. And, the state also started pressuring candidates running for the state legislature to take a pledge that they would honor those requests, even though they weren’t officially bound to do so.

Koed: Once they did that and they were successful at it, other western states began to do it. And in fact, by 1910, there were close to a dozen states that had some sort of popular election system in place.

Cunningham: And one of the results is that the Senate starts filling with members who are more progressive and who feel they more directly represent the voice of “we the people” — since the citizens of their states actually had a say in electing them.

Koed: You get people like William Borah of Idaho for instance, who will play a really important role in the national debate over direct election. You get people like Francis Warren, who’s the first senator from Wyoming and he’s also a very strong supporter of direct election. Joseph Bristow of Kansas will be an important player in this story. Albert Beveridge of Indiana is another one. So it becomes sort of the midwestern/western states versus the eastern powerhouse.

Cunningham: Around this same time, another force emerges that questions how well the classic Senate election model has been serving the will of the people, and that force is the press. In particular, it was publisher William Randolph Hearst.

Koed:  who was sort of the king of tabloid journalism of the time, but he was also a member of the House in the early 20th century. And he was a strong proponent for direct popular election of senators.

So Hearst hired a man named David Graham Phillips to write a series of articles for Cosmopolitan magazine, which at the time was kind of a muckraking magazine. And the series was to be about the Senate and the corruption in the Senate and why direct election would be necessary.

He wrote nine separate articles that ran in Cosmopolitan from March to November of 1906. And the articles were kind of a pivotal moment in a way, because first of all they were highly sensationalized and a lot of the charges were false.

Cunningham: The series of stories was called “Treason of the Senate” and it opened with this line: “Treason is a strong word, but not too strong to characterize the situation in which the Senate is the eager, resourceful, and indefatigable agent of interests as hostile to the American people as any invading army could be.”

Before the series launched, it’s true that two U.S. senators had been convicted of taking bribes from business clients in exchange for special treatment from the government. But this series went on to investigate roughly 20 other senators, showing how the combination of state legislature elections and big-business interests was producing senators who didn’t serve the people.

Koed: His series is pretty widely denounced by responsible journalists and editorialists of the day. And obviously it’s denounced by the Senate. But it gains wide popular support. And it really helps to change the tide of public opinion in favor of reform of the election process. He portrayed senators as bribers, moneylenders. You know, all the worst kind of stereotypical views of political corruption.

In some cases he took incidents and really sort of exaggerated them; in other cases he just made stuff up. But it’s an image of the Senate that really stuck, and it’s an image of the Senate that reflected the general public perception of the Senate as this out of touch collection of wealthy men who had only their own interests at heart.

Cunningham: And so this series becomes a major turning point. Soon after, efforts gain steam in Congress to reform the election of senators — and the efforts, not surprisingly, start in the House of Representatives rather than in the Senate itself.

Koed: The House introduces 18 or 19 different resolutions for a constitutional amendment to establish direct election of senators. Most of those amendments actually passed the House. They get sent to the Senate and they die in the Senate, because they’re referred to the Committee on Privileges and Elections. The Committee on Privileges and Elections was controlled by old-guard senators who had no interest in direct election of senators. And pretty much every proposal for reform, once it got to the Senate, died in that committee and never made it to the Senate floor.

Cunningham: There are a few different reasons these efforts are meeting resistance.

Koed: Opposition in the Senate for a good part comes from senators who are just on principle opposed to changing the Constitution. That’s one group. Another are really tied to the old system because that was their system of election, and they feared that if they changed that system they would lose their seats.

Cunningham: However, in 1909, there’s finally some movement.

Koed: And that’s because Kansas senator Joseph Bristow manages to maneuver a new resolution for direct election out of the Committee on Privileges and Elections and get it sent to the Committee on the Judiciary. That’s a key moment in the story.

The Judiciary Committee then creates a subcommittee to consider the resolution. On that subcommittee is Idaho senator William Borah, one of the great proponents for direct election. And it really owes it to the the hard work of William Borah that that resolution manages to get out of committee and make it for the first time to the Senate floor for debate.

But it makes it to the Senate floor in a slightly altered form. And this is the next major stage of the story.

By 1909 we’re living in a United States where almost every issue is touched by the issue of race, and that becomes an important component in the direct election system.

Cunningham: Because the only way that Idaho senator William Borah can convince his peers to let the proposed Constitutional amendment for direct election leave the Judiciary subcommittee and actually go to the Senate floor for a vote is if he agrees to tack onto it something the southern Democrats wanted:

Koed: A race rider.

Cunningham: The “race rider” basically stipulates that if the Constitution is amended and we switch over to allowing voters to directly elect their senators, then — sure, that’s fine but — the states themselves have the ability to control the terms of the elections. The federal government won’t have any say.

Now, the reason this was called a “race rider” is that what these southern states were essentially saying between the lines was: We don’t want African Americans in our state to participate in electing senators, so if we’re going to have popularly elected senators then we better be able to create whatever voting terms we see fit. In other words, we better be able to exclude anyone we want to.

Koed: When you’re talking about the 17th Amendment, there are two sections of the Constitution that you have to think about. There’s Article 1 Section 3, which is the part that defines how Senate elections happen — and that’s what they’re trying to change from indirect to direct election.

But there’s also Article 1 Section 4, which says that the times, places and manner of holding elections for senators and representatives shall be prescribed in each state by the legislature thereof. And it says the Congress may at any time by law make or alter such regulations. And it’s that phrase that becomes the target of the debate in the Senate in 1909, 1910 and 1911.

Cunningham: Because it’s that phrase — that the federal government can regulate the terms of elections — that southern democrats want out of there if they’re going to start allowing elections for senators. That stipulation itself is called the race rider.

Koed: The debate is less about how senators will be elected and a lot more about: Will federal authorities maintain control to regulate elections in the states?

Cunningham: So this proposed constitutional amendment, with the race rider stuck onto it, goes to the full Senate for a vote.

Koed: When it gets to the Senate floor, another senator from the West — Utah senator George Sutherland — comes into the story.

Cunningham: Sutherland proposes yet another tweak, which basically takes away the power of the race rider and says the federal government can still exert authority over state elections.

Koed: The Sutherland Amendment becomes the subject of heated debate in the Senate for months, and the whole debate centers around the issue of congressional authority over state elections.

It was a long debate. It was a contentious debate. Each side accused the other of race baiting. Northern Republicans, who opposed direct election, some of them sided with the Southern Democrats because they hoped that that would kill the resolution. All sorts of political maneuvering happened.

Finally in 1910, after months of debate, the Sutherland amendment passed the Senate; but the Constitutional amendment that came with it failed to get the two-thirds vote it needed for passage. And the whole system essentially went back to square one. They had to more or less start over.

Cunningham: So they do. In 1911, there’s a new Congress.

Koed: And this made a difference, because as a result of the 1910 election there were a lot of new members in the House and the Senate. And a lot of those new members were products of direct election systems and a lot of them were supporters of a direct election system. So the balance of power had shifted a little bit in favor of the reformers.

Cunningham: The House of Representatives quickly introduced another proposal for direct election of senators. This one has the race rider back on it, again. It gets all the way to the Senate floor…

Koed: Again, another contentious debate. Joseph Bristow of Kansas again brings forth another amendment to this resolution. It becomes known as the Bristow Amendment. And in his amendment, the race rider stripped away. So we’re back again to the original form.

Cunningham: The debate keeps going, week after week, but the influx of more reform-minded senators into the new Congress was just enough to even the scale.

Koed: When it came to a full vote in the Senate, it tied 44 to 44. Vice President James Sherman stepped in, broke the tied vote in favor of passage of the so-called Bristow Amendment. The two versions — so we now have a house version of the resolution, with the race rider intact, and we have a Senate version (the Bristow amendment) with the race rider taken out — go to conference. Weeks go by again as they try to settle the difference between these two.

In the end the House, wanting to get direct election through, essentially gives in to the Senate version. And so the Bristow Amendment is the one that actually becomes the constitutional amendment for direct election.

Cunningham: In 1912, the Bristow amendment — also known as the 17th Amendment — was officially passed by Congress.

As Betty Koed mentioned at the very beginning, this was the most significant change we had ever made to how our government would operate. We had passed amendments before that clarified the protections that citizens and states have, amendments that had expanded voting to new groups, even an amendment adjusting the presidential election process.

But no other amendment had so fundamentally overturned a part of the framers’ original vision for our government’s structure.

Rosen: The framers of the original Constitution were deeply afraid of direct democracy.

Cunningham: Jeff Rosen again.

Rosen: But what they agreed on was the need to disperse power to protect liberty. And they wanted to disperse power both horizontally, between the three branches of the federal government, and vertically, between the states and the federal government — in order to ensure that we the people retained ultimate power but no branch of government, whether at the federal or state level, could easily speak for us unless we empowered it to do so. But our challenge is to translate their principles into a very different era.

Cunningham: And at the dawn of the 20th century, that’s what Congress did. It sent the 17th amendment off to the states for ratification. And the funny thing is, despite all that turmoil over it on Capitol Hill, it actually goes through state ratification very easily. By April 8th, 1913, the necessary three-quarters of states have ratified it and it officially changes the Constitution.

Koed: One of the things you have to remember is that by the time we get to 1910, 1911, nearly 40 of the states had already come out publicly in favor of direct election. In fact, state governments were asking for this reform. State governments were tired of dealing with Senate elections. They were tired of dealing with the corruption and the bribery that came along with it. And they saw it as just a nuisance to them by then.

Cunningham: They were also tired of the amount of time their state legislatures were spending on it, when they could be using those sessions to pass state legislation and focus on a sea of local issues.

Koed: Today many people will look back at the debate and they think it was taking power away from the states. But in reality, the states wanted that taken away from them. Oh sure, there were people — particularly in the eastern seaboard and the Southern Democrats — they were not in favor of the amendment. But even in some of those cases, the states had spoken in favor of reform. So they didn’t have much of a choice at that point, they had to step on board.

Cunningham: So what changed after ratification of the 17th amendment? Did it move us to a system where our leaders in the Senate better serve the people? Where there’s less corruption? Did it better perfect our union?

Koed: I think the Senate today, if you compared it to that of the early 20th century, is much more egalitarian. The Senate tends still to be wealthier than the House members as a rule, and we still have some members of the Senate that are very wealthy members. But it’s not the millionaires club of the 1890s. We also have senators that are teachers and farmers and doctors.

And you could also argue it would have been a lot harder to elect women to the Senate under the old system than you do under the new system. We don’t get our first female senator until 1922; she’s appointed. The first elected woman senator comes in 1932. If they had had to contend with the indirect election system, where they had to go and get the favor of the state legislature to gain office, it would have taken even longer to get women into office because they didn’t have those kinds of connections in state government. So I think the fact that we have 21 women senators today is also due in part to the fact that we now have a direct election system.

Cunningham: And what about a better functioning Senate, one that can work more effectively to serve its citizens?

Koed: It’s interesting because this constitutional amendment, like many others, has had consequences intended and unintended. It did get rid of the deadlocks. And it got rid of course of the bribery of state legislators. It also helped to cement a stronger bond between senators and their constituents, because now they had to go directly to the voter rather than just to the state legislature. And I think that in the long run has had a positive impact in many ways.

It also had some unintended consequences. Senators had to go out and start campaigning, for instance. That led to questions of campaign finance, questions of campaign finance reform. And it’s been a long story to where we are today, where we have millions of dollars spent on Senate elections. As early as the 1920s and even the 19-teens, the Senate begins to hold investigations looking into campaign finance issues to be sure that there is no corruption in that process. I don’t think they intended that when they passed the 17th Amendment, but has been one of the results of it.

Cunningham: And there’s always the possibility, put forward by people like former Supreme Court Justice Scalia, that something of the original intent was shaken or lost by the change.

Rosen: I had the remarkable experience of seeing one of Justice Antonin Scalia his last appearances before his death and it was at the Union League in Philadelphia. And I heard Justice Scalia say: The 17th amendment represents the death of federalism.

He said that no amendment has done more to undermine the balance between federal and state’s rights than the decision to have popular rather than the legislative election of senators. That is a dramatic statement from the great originalist.

Koed: There is a strong argument that people make that in adopting the 17th Amendment, you took away a part of the framers original design for the Senate. And the framers original design of the Senate really wanted it to be a body that was that was insulated from public opinion, and distanced from public opinion, and one that was able to serve in a true advisory role to both the executive and the House.

And so there are people who argue by making them directly responsive to popular opinion, you’ve taken away that buffer zone. And because they have to answer to the wishes of the people at the voting booth, that somehow they do not have the ability to stand back and have the distance and have the wisdom that they might have had under the original system — so there’s that part of the argument.

There are those, and Scalia might be in this category as an originalist, that just do not want the original Constitution to change. There are others who would see direct election as a way to undermine the role of the states in the federal government.

Cunningham: And that argument flows from the idea that state legislatures used to be able to just directly tell the senators what to do to best represent the state’s interests.

Koed: In the early years of the republic, there was a lot of truth to that. In fact, state legislatures often instructed senators on how to vote. But fairly early on, by the time you get to the 1820s and 30s, senators have moved beyond that and are not taking instructions well from state governments.

I would argue that, despite the fact that we have this one important change in the framers’ vision for the Senate, the Senate still maintains virtually all of the role that they had in mind. It still serves as a check on the president and the House. It still serves as an advisory body on nominations and treaties. It still serves the full state’s interest, because they have to deal with a statewide constituency — and they tend to have very close ties to the governor and the state legislators.

And so I think even though the method of election has changed, most of those ties and most of what empowered the states under the old system remains in place.

Cunningham: Only one of our constitutional framers, James Wilson, had anticipated that this change might be necessary. But all of those men who signed their names at the bottom of the Constitution in 1787 knew that the first words at the top of the parchment said: “We the people of the United States in order to form a more perfect union…”

That is, they knew they that America was a work in progress, an experiment in how to unite the different wills of the people.

Rosen: A more perfect union did not mean total consolidation. It meant popular sovereignty. It meant that we the people of the United States as a whole have the ultimate power to authorize our delegates and our servants to speak in our name.

Koed: We now have “we the people” that vote and elect U.S. senators directly. So it’s no longer a voting process that’s disconnected, or no longer one step removed via a state legislature. It’s directly empowering the people. So if part of the the process of “we the people to form a more perfect union” is to somehow empower the people to make the decisions that are important to our country, then direct election would be directly tied to that.

Cunningham: On June 25th, 1787, as James Wilson was advocating — in vain — for direct election of senators, he reminded his fellow delegates at the convention to imagine what a future America might look like. He said, “consider the amazing extent of our country — the immense population which is to fill it, the influence which the government we are to form will have, not only on the present generation of our people and their multiplied posterity, but on the whole Globe.” Wilson, for his part, said he was “lost in the magnitude.”

And his point, it seemed, was that we can never fully grasp the immensity of what’s to come — or even future practical realities like how the state legislatures will act toward the federal government, or whether the small states will become bigger states, or whether political corruption will go up or down with any given change. But, if the strength of union rests on our ability to best represent its multitude of voices, then that should be our greatest ongoing effort.

[END]

Cunningham: Many thanks to this week’s guests: Jeffrey Rosen, president of the National Constitution Center; and Betty Koed, the U.S. Senate historian.

Fief and drum music is by Other Turner and the Rising Star Fief and Drum Band. Special thanks to Sharde Thomas and the rest of the Turner family for its use.

Our theme music and additional compositions are by Ryan and Hays Holladay. The original artwork for our podcast is by Michelle Thompson. And, as always, a huge thank you to Ted Muldoon, my producer here at The Washington Post.

Micro-chipped cows are putting Argentinian beef exports back into the spotlight

Argentina’s push to increase agriculture exports is moving to a different frontier: micro-chipped cows.

The very first time, the nation’s government works to advertise we’ve got the technology in order to boost the traceability of supplies making beef shipments more appealing to potential customers in america and Asia, based on Jorge Dillon, obama from the country’s farming sanitary service, or Senasa.

Presently, maqui berry farmers use coloured ear tags to by hand track cattle. Microchips, and also the associated digital tracking, would eliminate errors that arise from monitoring animal movement with documents, Mr Dillon stated within an interview in Buenos Aires.

We’ve got the technology can create Argentina to market its beef to countries with the most stringent import needs, he stated. Shipments towards the US happen to be banned since 2001 due to an episode of feet-and-mouth disease.

Countries centered on beef exports, for example Australia, have previously switched to micro-chipping as Asia’s need to track steaks completely to the ranch increases and world concerns over food safety intensify, stated Glynn Tonsor, an affiliate professor of farming financial aspects who focuses on traceability at Kansas Condition College.

The proceed to push micro-chipping, that could be printed in Argentina’s federal register when in a few days, reflects broader efforts to spread out up Argentina’s beef sector under President Mauricio Macri.

He’s been leaning on maqui berry farmers they are driving a fiscal recovery since taking office in December 2015. It’s a turnaround from his predecessor, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, who centered on protectionist policies.

Beef producers were one of the worst hit within the Fernandez de Kirchner years, as high export taxes and domestic cost controls stifled the.

Argentine officials will be in talks with counterparts in america to resume exports towards the country for several weeks.

Progress in individuals negotiations could expedite use of countries in Asia, including Japan and Columbia, Dillon stated.

“The US would put us within the shop window for other very demanding markets,” Mr Dillon stated. 

The microchip system will initially be voluntary since the cost could be excessive for small-scale maqui berry farmers with less than 100 cattle, Mr Dillon stated.

US inspectors visited Argentine slaughterhouses in December, but there hasn’t been much movement within the negotiations since that time.

Mr Dillon stated the American officials had requested extra info on sanitary controls which Argentina responded two days ago. When the inspectors are pleased using the clarifications, approval might be imminent, he stated.

Bloomberg

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Fran works six days per week in junk food, but she’s destitute: ‘It’s economic slavery’

Once a person has barked their order in to the microphone in the Popeyes drive-through on Prospect Avenue, Might, the time starts. Staff possess a company-mandated 180 seconds to accept order, prepare an order, bag an order and deliver it towards the drive-through window.

Center is on “short shift” right now, meaning it’s about 50 % the typical staff, so Fran Marion frequently needs to do all individuals jobs herself. At the time we met, she estimates she processed 187 orders – roughly one every two minutes. Individuals orders grossed about $950 for the organization. Marion went home with $76.

Despite working six days per week, Marion, 37, just one mother of two, can’t pay the bills around the $9.50 an hour or so she will get at Popeyes (no apostrophe – founder Al Copeland joked he was too poor to pay for one). A quick food worker for 22 years, Marion has more often than not were built with a second job. Until lately, she’d been working 9am-4pm at Popeyes, with no break, then crossing town to some janitorial job at Bartle Hall, the convention center, where she’d work from 5pm- to at least one.30am for $11 an hour or so. She didn’t take breaks there either, even though they were permitted.

The destitute Popeyes worker fighting for fair wages in Missouri

“I am tired,” she states. “If I required a rest I visits sleep, and so i works straight through,” she states.

Despite individuals two jobs, Marion was not able in order to save – so when disaster struck she thought it was impossible to deal financially. Recently, the town condemned the home she rented – the owner had declined to repair faulty wiring and also the dripping roof – and she or he is made destitute.

Her children, Ravyn, 15, and Rashad, 14, are actually coping with a buddy, two bus rides away. Due to the some time and distance, Marion hasn’t seen these questions week. She and her dog Hershey, a goofy milk-chocolate colored pitbull, are sleeping in the apartment of fellow junk food worker, Bridget Hughes: Marion around the sofa, Hershey around the balcony.

It’s a downtrodden two-bed room apartment inside a sketchy neighborhood. Sex workers stake the busier street corners most of the houses are boarded up or unhappy. The detritus of substance abuse litters the roads.

While she attempts to save for any deposit on the new house, Marion is discussing with Bridget’s husband, Demetrius, as well as their four children. “Not getting a house, honestly, everyone, it can make me seem like I’m a failure. Like I’ve let my children lower,” states Marion, sitting one of the plastic bags that hold her existence. The remainder of her family’s possessions are kept in a van downstairs, a van she can’t drive because she hasn’t got the cash to have it insured.

Marion at her friend’s house. Marion at her friend’s house. Photograph: Tom Silverstone

After she quit her janitorial job, wishing to locate some thing flexible so she often see much more of her children, Marion began interviewing for any second job in junk food. “I usually have needed two jobs. You essentially need two jobs to outlive focusing on low wages,” she states. Working hard for thus little security makes her feel “like I get nowhere,” she states. “My household is not benefiting. I’m working hard in the future home, but still I must decide whether I will put food up for grabs or can i spend the money for light bill, or pay rent.

“It makes me seem like a peasant. In ways it’s slavery. It’s economic slavery.”

Unsurprisingly, Marion appears depressed. She looks lower when she talks, raising her big, sad eyes only if she’s finished. But her whole face illuminates when she discusses her kids. “They are my world,” she states. “[They] brighten my soul.” She worries that this pressure isn’t good on her – self-diagnosed – high bloodstream pressure. Like 28 million other Americans, she does not have medical health insurance. She hasn’t seen a physician in her own adult working existence.

Bridget and Demetrius are hardly doing better. She earns $9 an hour or so at Wendy’s, Demetrius makes $9.50 an hour or so working in a service station. Rent and bills, including childcare, arrived at about $800 per month, and they’re barely scraping by, living payday to payday. Hughes states she’s missed her children’s graduations, doctors’ appointments. She tears as she explains how economic necessity meant she was forced to go back to work two days after she last gave birth, coupled with to stop breastfeeding.

Marion with her youngest child. Marion together with her niece. Photograph: Tom Silverstone

But Marion and Hughes are fighters, figureheads with what some see because the next wave from the civil legal rights movement. The happy couple are leading voices in Fully Stand Up Might, the neighborhood chapter from the union-backed Fight for $15 movement, that is campaigning for any nationwide rise in the minimum wage. And they’re determined compare unique car features.

The Battle for $15 movement is most likely probably the most much talked about, and effective, labor movement in america, and it has effectively pressed for local raises within the minimum wage across the nation, mostly in Democratic strongholds. Trump easily won Missouri in 2016, even though the major metropolitan areas – Might, St Louis and Columbia – voted Democrat. However the pair are certain that by uniting, the countless Americans working low wage jobs can effect change even today.

“It’s not only us, it’s all over America,” states Hughes. She states she felt “invisible” prior to the Fight for $15 movement.

On 14 April 2015, campaigners held that which was then your largest ever protest by low-wage workers in US history. About 60,000 workers required towards the roads in metropolitan areas across the nation with a rise in the minimum wage.

When protesters found Marion’s restaurant, she states the majority of the staff gone to live in the rear of center to distance themselves in the activists while her corporate boss “smirked and laughed” because they read their requirements and stated the things they needed. “I checked out him and that i thought, ‘You do not have these worries’,” she states. “How are you able to laugh at another person’s discomfort? And i’m studying the same factor. That’s after i became a member of the battle for $15.

wages

“There is wave. There’s momentum. I believe that wonderful cooperating, we’ll win $15 within the finish,” she states.

It’s been almost ten years because the Great Recession, and America has observed an archive 82 several weeks of month-on-month jobs growth. The nation’s unemployment rate now is a 4.3%, a 16-year low. But every month, it’s the low-wage sectors – junk food, retail, healthcare – which have added new jobs. Wage growth has barely stored pace with inflation. The nation’s minimum wage ($7.25) was last elevated in ’09.

Over the US, 58 million people earn under $15 an hour or so 41 million earn under $12. In Missouri, Might and St Louis councils lately passed local ordinances that will have elevated the minimum wage – to $13 an hour or so by 2023 in Kansas City’s situation.

But supported by local and national business interests, Missouri’s governor, Eric Greitens – a bestselling author, former Navy Seal along with a rising Republican star – has gone to live in roll back the increases, quarrelling companies can’t afford raises and can leave. “Liberals say these laws and regulations help people,” Greitens stated inside a statement. “They don’t. They hurt them.”

Not too, states David Cooper, senior economic analyst in the Financial aspects Policy Institute. “We have decades of research about this also it all concludes that increases within the minimum wage have experienced minimal effect on jobs growth,” he states. The educational debate is presently about whether that impact is really a small grow in growth or perhaps a small drop. In either case, he states, a little increase in the minimum wage comes with an outsized effect on low wage workers. A $1 an hour or so rise in the current the least $7.25 will give the typical low wage worker $2,000 more annually, states Cooper. “That is a big injection of earnings,” he states.

The brilliant lobbying against a rise is “simply a tool to help keep wages to a minimum to ensure that employers can capture just as much profit because they can”, he states. Polls show that almost all Americans are in support of a rise. A minimum of 40 metropolitan areas and states round the country will raise their minimum wages in 2017, thanks largely to ballot measures. Individuals measures will provide raises close to $4,000 annually in excess of one-third from the workforce in states new You are able to and California, based on the National Employment Law Project.

But Greitens isn’t alone in eliminating back, helped with a study from the impact of Seattle’s minimum wage hike through the College of Washington, which appeared to point out greater wages had converted to less jobs. The methodology of this study continues to be heavily belittled (“utter BS”, based on Josh Hoxie, director from the Project on Chance and Taxation in the Institute for Policy Studies ) and stands as opposed to piles of studies that found the alternative hasn’t negated its recognition with anti-wage hikers.

Marion: ‘At the top of America, when it comes to Trump and them, their goal is to keep us down.’ Marion: ‘At the top of the America, with regards to Trump and them, clients meet to stay lower.’ Photograph: Tom Silverston/Tom Silverstone

Marion isn’t inside it for that politics. She’s inside it your money can buy, money which means one factor on her: getting her family together again and providing them a safe and secure existence. We pick her up at Popeyes and drive to some enjoyable Might suburb. Cicadas thrum as she beams strolling in the vehicle to hug her daughter Rayven and goddaughter Shi’ Ann.

Shi’ Ann, in her own rainbow hued “LOVE” T-shirt (the “O” is really a butterfly), plays with princess switch-flops and squirms, giggling in Marion’s arms. “Princesses don’t take their fingers within their mouths,” laughs Marion. I ask Rayven how it’s living without her mother. The idyll has ended. Tears fill her eyes. Marion goes inside therefore we can’t see her cry.

Later, Marion states Rayven really wants to leave school at 16 and obtain employment in junk food propose. Ideally, her mother wants her to visit college but nothing is fantastic for the Marion family at the moment.

Following the visit, we drive into the city to any or all Souls Unitarian church where Marion and Hughes are going to address a panel of academics, union leaders yet others. The area is really a world from their very own. A huge Louise Bourgeois spider menaces a manicured lawn in the Kemper art museum near by. The 2 women are unintimidated. They contain the room effortlessly because they discuss their grapple with humor along with a confidence that things can change.

Visitors ask why it normally won’t return to school, get greater compensated jobs. Hughes includes a degree but because the daughter of the low wage worker stated she could only afford college. Employers saw her degree as “worthless”, and she or he wound up $13,000 indebted. She did work inside a tax office but dropped it only to discover that because of Missouri’s business-friendly rules, she was barred from employed by another tax office with a non-compete agreement. (Junk food franchisor Jimmy John’s enforced an identical agreement on its workers but dropped it this past year following a public backlash.)

Barred from tax office work, Hughes stated junk food was all she may find.

Marion states the argument that junk food workers should leave for other, better compensated, jobs misses the purpose. People like junk food. The businesses making it make fortunes. “We would be the feet soldiers of these billion-dollar companies. We are the type carrying it out and getting the cash,Inches she states.

“At the top of the America, with regards to Trump and them, clients meet to stay lower,” she states. “Between these billion-dollar companies and Trump, it’s an electrical trip.”

They are able to manage to pay many, she believes, eventually they’ll. “We continue to be coming. No war continues to be won instantly and we’re not quitting.Inches

In addition to that, she likes employed in junk food. “I like it. I’m proficient at it. Much like Martin Luther King stated, ‘If you will be considered a road sweeper, be the greatest damn sweeper there is’,” she states. “I have no idea. It’s this society is all smudged.Inches

Condition from the Art: A Start-Up Suggests a Fix towards the Healthcare Morass

Farhad Manjoo

Farhad Manjoo

Condition From The ART

WINFIELD, Kan. — Should you viewed the drama in Washington recently, you might have leave with the idea the American healthcare product is a hopeless mess.

In Congress, a condemned intend to repeal the Affordable Care Act, President Obama’s healthcare law, has switched right into a precarious effort to save it. Meanwhile, President Trump continues to be threatening to mortally wound what the law states — that they insists, falsely, is collapsing anyway — while his administration is undermining its being transported out.

So it’s surprising that over the continent from Washington, investors and technology entrepreneurs in Plastic Valley begin to see the American healthcare system because the next great marketplace for reform.

A few of their interest is due to advances in technology like smartphones, wearable health devices (like smart watches), artificial intelligence, and dna testing and sequencing. There’s a regulatory position: The Affordable Care Act added millions of individuals to the care market, and also the law produced several incentives for start-ups to alter how healthcare is supplied. Probably the most prominent could well be Oscar, a start-up co-founded by Joshua Kushner (the more youthful brother of Mr. Trump’s boy-in-law, Jared Kushner), that has found methods to mine healthcare data to produce a better medical health insurance service.

But possibly probably the most intriguing and potentially groundbreaking company produced regarding the the Affordable Care Act is Aledade, a start-up founded in 2014 by Farzad Mostashari, a physician and technologist who had been the nation’s coordinator for health it in the Department of Health insurance and Human Services within the Federal government.

Aledade, that has elevated about $75 million from investors, comes with an agenda so ambitious it may sound basically impossible: Dr. Mostashari really wants to reduce the price of healthcare while improving how people are treated. Also, he really wants to save the independent primary care physician, whose practices happen to be battered through the perverse incentives from the American healthcare system.

Here is probably the most interesting part: His plan’s working.

A couple of days ago, I visited two primary care practices in southeast Kansas which have labored with Aledade for over a year. Their operations have been completely reprocessed by the organization. Because of Aledade, the practices’ finances had improved as well as their patients were healthier. On every significant way of measuring healthcare costs, the Aledade method made an appearance to possess reduced inefficient spending.

“The whole idea would be to align incentives between society and doctors and patients,” Dr. Mostashari stated, adding that Aledade helps reduce hospital readmissions and reduce appointments with specialists in lots of of their markets. “We’re reducing unnecessary and dangerous utilization and improving quality of care.”

Obviously, such promises aren’t new in the intersection of health insurance and technology. A lot of companies make big bets and inflated — included in this Theranos, the lab testing start-up, which switched to happen to be more puffery than product. Aledade faces its very own share of hurdles, including be it investors can ride out a lengthy and pricey expansion before it begins to realize any big paydays.

Still, its plan — which mainly involves using software to attain its goals — looks promising.

The American healthcare product is a fragmented archipelago, with patients moving through doctors’ offices and hospitals which are frequently disconnected from each other. Consequently, many doctors — who frequently see themselves as a type of quarterback who calls the shots on the patient’s care — don’t have any good way to monitor a patient’s meandering path with the healthcare system.

Aledade’s software addresses that by collecting patient data from a number of sources, developing a helicopter view. Doctors can easily see which specialists someone has visited, which tests happen to be purchased, and, crucially, just how much the general care may be costing the care system.

Interactive Feature Thinking about Everything Tech? The daily Bits e-newsletter could keep you updated around the latest from Plastic Valley and also the technology industry, plus exclusive analysis from your reporters and editors.

More essential, the program uses the information to put together battery power of daily checklists for physicians’ practices. They are some simple steps for that practice to consider — refer to this as patient, order this vaccine — to help keep on the top of patients’ care, and, over time, to lessen your buck.

For instance, say you’re a physician in a small practice in rural Kansas and your patients, a 67-year-old man with cardiovascular disease, just attended the er.

“In yesteryear, we’d only discover our patients were in the hospital maybe days afterward,” stated Dr. Bryan Dennett, who runs the household Care Center in Winfield, Kan., with medical partner, Dr. Bryan Davis. With Aledade, Dr. Dennett has become alerted immediately, so “we can give them a call when they’re in the er and say, ‘Hey, what’s happening there? Return here, we are able to take proper care of you!”

It is not only er visits. Aledade informs doctors which of the patients is qualified for maintenance like vaccines or perhaps an “annual wellness visit.” The doctors stated that in such visits they’ve discovered several problems that might have ballooned into larger problems with no treatment. The program lets doctors know when their sufferers happen to be discharged in the hospital, letting them schedule “transitional care management” visits.

Such visits really are a gimme for that healthcare system — they’ve been demonstrated to lessen hospital readmissions (that are very pricey), and patients say they locate them useful for navigating the care system. And since these visits are extremely good at lowering all around health care costs, Medicare pays doctors a greater rate to supply such care — and therefore primary care doctors could make money by using Aledade’s alerts.

Yet despite the fact that Aledade thinks about itself like a technology company, its doctors stated its software programs are minimal interesting factor it will. Independent primary care doctors are usually careful about technology, particularly if it seeks to completely alter the way they work. Therefore the real fight Aledade faces would be to integrate technology into doctors’ practices — and to do this within an nonintrusive and pleasing way. The software’s instructions should also prove financially rewarding for clinics, while still in some way saving cash for that all around health care system.

To complete all of this, Aledade — which now are operating in 15 states and it has relationships using more than 1,200 doctors — has already established to get greater than a software company. It’s hired a battalion of field coordinators visiting practices and provide in-depth training and advice.

The organization has additionally cheated several healthcare ideas which were introduced or faster through the Affordable Care Act. One of these simple is called the accountable care organization, or perhaps a.D.To., which lets categories of medical service providers unite to coordinate take care of a patient. Research has proven that this type of structure lowers overall medical costs underneath the Affordable Care Act, Medicare encouraged the development of those organizations by promising to talk about any savings it realizes with doctors. Aledade required the accountable care organization idea making it its primary business design. (The dwelling was reaffirmed with a 2015 law passed overwhelmingly by Congress, so a repeal from the Affordable Care Act will not have affected its structure.)

For Aledade, the upshot is it is only going to make lots of money whether it really succeeds in lessening healthcare costs.

“Say Medicare thinks that it is likely to spend $100 million the coming year on the patients in Kansas,” Dr. Mostashari stated. “A large amount of this really is from bad stuff — hospitalization, complications, you realize, bad stuff. Therefore we are available in and say, when we could work using the primary care doctors to lessen bad things from happening while growing quality, only then do we can help to save money for Medicare. Medicare states we thought we would spend $100 million on individuals patients, so we only spent $90 million. So, Medicare keeps 1 / 2 of the savings, and yet another 1 / 2 of it is going to Aledade — which we split using the doctors.”

Additionally to Medicare, Aledade has started registering several commercial medical health insurance companies under similar cost-savings plans. But considering that the organization will get compensated only if it cuts healthcare costs (while improving health outcomes), Aledade and it is investors are earning a bet.

In the newbie of operation, for example, Aledade were able to cut many pricey procedures, yet its savings didn’t meet Medicare’s benchmark — meaning it recognized without any revenue in the savings program.

The outcomes because of its second year are due in October. This time around, because Aledade stated its savings grow with time, the organization will probably start making money. “We’re very positive about our model,” Dr. Mostashari stated.