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Trevorum

Federal ID cards

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If the state legislators selected senators, sure, special interests could lobby each state representative and buy votes. But the senator would have no direct tie to the lobbyists. At least one degree of separation more than we have now. For example, take Sen. Lieberman, the good senator from Aetna. He makes sure he votes in their interest because they are a major contributor to his campaign. If the Connecticut state house selected him, Aetna and the other insurance lobby's power would be diminished because they directly would not be funding him. He would have far more cover to vote without the direct influence of his campaign donors.

 

On the filibuster, it was designed to extend debate. Period. It was not intended to obstruct. However, recently it has not been used to extend debate, its been used to stop it. This has required a super majority for passing any legislation, something I don't think the founding fathers had in mind. I hope the new congress reforms the rule next week and at least requires the filibustering senator to hold the floor for the entire period. And I also hope they put an end to anonymous holds on appointments.

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Gary, regardless of what may or may not have been said or intended at the Constitutional Convention about why Senators were originally elected by the state legislatures, the fact is that the Congress and the state legislatures, using the amending process prescribed by the Constitution, changed the selection procedure so the the people elect their Senators directly. I never really focused on the reasons for this change before, but I found a couple of sources that discuss it. (See http://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/history/common/briefing/Direct_Election_Senators.htm and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/17th_Amendment_to_the_United_States_Constitution) I guess I had always assumed and/or learned that the 17th Amendment was passed simply to make the election of Senators "more democratic" (small "d" there) and I am sure that was part of it, but according to these articles there were other (and somewhat more practical) considerations as well. Interestingly, in light of Gern's opinion that going back to the original system would reduce the influence of $pecial interests on Senatorial elections, one of the objections to the original system was that it was controlled by special interests! (I'll get back to that subject momentarily.) I also found it interesting, and never knew before, that some states had already started holding direct elections for the Senate even before the amendment was passed and some even before it was proposed. In light of Gary's concern that the states have lost too much power due to direct election of Senators, another interesting point (and also new to me) is that the change back in the 1910's was pushed by the state legislatures, rather than the federal government, and especially rather than the Senate. Senators who had been elected by their state legislatures did not want to open the elections to the public. (Something which would probably be repeated in reverse, if the "movement" to repeal the 17th Amendment ever showed signs of possibly succeeding, which it really hasn't up to this point.) The state legislatures starting passing calls for a new constitutional convention, and when it seemed like this might actually happen, the Senate backed down, approved the 17th Amendment, and it was sent to the state legislatures where it was ratified fairly quickly.

 

Now, almost 100 years later, it is difficult for me to imagine many people seriously wanting to change back to a system of indirect election. I don't see how elections by the state legislatures would improve anything... which brings me to Gern's comments. With her first post on the subject of Senate elections, I thought this might be another of her satirical posts. In fact, I have to admit that sometimes I am not sure whether Gern is serious or not, and this is one of those times. However Gern, with your second post, you seem to be serious, so I am going to respond. If you actually were satirizing again, I guess you can have a laugh at my gullibility.

 

I do not think elections of Senators by the legislatures would get the "money out of politics" or reduce the impact of the special interests at all, in fact it would probably be just the opposite. The special interests would simply shift their attention (and their money) to state legislative elections, so as to indirectly influence the election of U.S. Senators. And there are thousands of state legislative seats, as opposed to 100 Senators, so that is a lot more elections to influence -- although the bulk of the money would go to a smaller number of "swing" districts, just as it does now for Congressional districts. The goal of the parties and the special interests would be to take majority control of enough state legislative houses to produce a majority in the Senate. So I think the special interests would be at least as influential as they are now, and the money would continue to flow. Once the state legislatures are elected, the election of Senators would become fairly simple: the legislatures would vote along party lines, and whichever party controls a legislature would pick up that Senate seat. (Where there is split control (in the 49 states that have two-house legislatures) there might be a problem getting anyone elected, which according to the articles I cited above, was a major problem in the 19th century and into the 20th, where Senate seats sometimes went vacant because the parties were deadlocked in the state legislature.) I think this would result in an increase in partisanship, which I think we already have enough of. Right now, in many states, independent voters often decide who wins a Senate seat, but with indirect election their influence would be limited to the individual state legislators who in turn would elect the Senators.

 

I definitely agree with the idea of limiting the ability to filibuster, on both legislation and appointments. Today I read that the Senate will be voting on new rules limiting filibusters when their session opens on Wednesday. It probably will not go completely back to the old way of one Senator holding the floor for days on end (as in "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington"), but the new proposed rules (see http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/03/opinion/03mon1.html) would eliminate a lot of the abuses that have developed fairly recently, which impose a requirement of 60 percent to pass any legislation rather than a majority. It looks like it would also eliminate anonymous holds. These would at least be steps in the right direction.

 

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I am not in favor of the, but I don't see how federal ID cards violate anything in the Constitution!

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I don't see how federal ID cards would violate anything in the U.S. Constitution either. And it's nice that I get to agree with Ed on a political issue, it only happens about once a year or so. I'll even count this as our 2010 agreement, since that's when the thread started, in hopes that we will agree about something else in the next 12 months. :)

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They violate the Constitutional provision that says that, unless the Constitution specifically allows it, Congress may not do it. And there is nothing there authorizing Congress to require federal ID cards.

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Seems to me you could probably weasel the justification under Amendments 14,15,19,26 and the Commerce Clause (especially the way it's interpreted these days).

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I think the ID cards could be justified under the 14th Amendment provisions regarding citizenship and the rights of citizens. Of course that would probably only apply to citizens, but I'm pretty sure that non-citizens who are in this country legally need to be able to identify themselves anyway (i.e. green cards, visas, etc.) and I haven't heard anybody raising any constitutional issues about that.

 

Noelsrule, the reference to the voting amendments (15th, 19th and 26th) is very creative, but would be a stretch. Presumably you think so as well, since you mention "weasel"ing. I think the problem there is that the federal government does not actually conduct elections, the states do. But I do not think the 14th amendment justification would be "weaseling."

 

As for the Commerce Clause, I don't know. Presumably that is the justification for requiring everybody to have a Social Security number, or maybe that is under the 16th amendment taxing power. It doesn't seem too far a jump from requiring everybody to have an SSN to issuing the number on a card that is a photo ID. But do either of those parts of the Constitution justify the last step, which is requiring people to carry that card around? I don't know. I think the 14th Amendment is the better bet. I'm not necessarily saying it's a good idea, I think "Big Brother is watching" us too much already -- and I mean both governmental Big Brother and business Big Brother.

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"Noelsrule, the reference to the voting amendments (15th, 19th and 26th) is very creative, but would be a stretch. Presumably you think so as well, since you mention "weasel"ing. I think the problem there is that the federal government does not actually conduct elections, the states do."

 

The reason I included all of those is because they each include a clause that gives Congress power to make laws, and they all have to do with citizenship, and to some extent, identification. Like I said, though, it'd be a stretch.

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Ah the heck with it. Since this is no longer the America that I grew up in, let's just go ahead and have Federal ID cards, a DNA data base that encompasses every citizen, and start bar coding every child at birth, along with the implantation of sub derma GPS tracking devices. Make Facebook part of the a Big Brother internet check in site requiring under Federal law that every citizen check in during set AM and PM hours.... As I see it the land of the free is now just a myth, just might as well as to put this big lie to bed, and embrace the fascist state that this country has now become....

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No way le Voyageur, I refuse to get a Facebook account!

 

Seriously though, I understand the "Big Brother" concern, and mentioned it myself... but I just don't see the ID card thing as the end of the world. I already, as a practical matter, need to carry a government identification card (my driver's license) with me at all times -- not just to drive, but to do banking, to buy certain medications (like cold medication with real decongestant so the government can make sure I don't buy enough to set up a meth lab, apparently), and for other reasons. The identity of the government that issues the ID does not seem like that big a deal to me, especially when the federal government is already well aware of my existence and other facts about me. I'm concerned about privacy, but this does not seem like the top issue on the list.(This message has been edited by njcubscouter)

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It's funny, the Google Ads on this site have recently become so view-specific that when I post in this thread, the three ads at the top are all for Identification Cards or systems such as "Customer identity verification for Patriot Act Section 326 compliance". If I go to a thread about camp stoves I have no doubt that I am going to see three ads for camp stoves. There has always been some of that on this site, I just don't remember it being so obtrusive before. But I understand that it costs money to maintain this site, so it's reasonable for the site owner to have the ads.

 

If anybody knows too much about all of us these days, it's probably Google!

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