The filling of vacated seats in the United States Senate this year has left a lot to be desired. Frankly, it was a mess. It definitely showed the need for the Constitution to clearly delineate how vacated senate seats should be filled. Just look at what happened this year.
First, we have the nutty governor of Illinois -- Rod Blagojevich. He decides that he should be able to sell the Illinois senate seat to the highest bidder. Then he gets caught on tape trying to do just that, and is arrested by federal agents. He faces impeachment and a criminal trial, but that didn't stop him from making a senate appointment anyway. So now Illinois is saddled with a senator blemished by Blagojevich's criminal behavior, and it'll be a couple of years before they can replace him.
Then we have the weird pick of New York's governor -- David Paterson. From the very start, there were two clear favorites of the people of New York. In every poll conducted, Cuomo and Kennedy were far ahead of any other candidate. So who does Paterson choose? He ignores the wishes of the people of New York and picks his own favorite -- an virtually unknown representative from upstate. Again, it'll be a couple of years before the people can choose for themselves.
Add to this the fact that a caretaker senator was chosen in Delaware. The people will choose their real senator in a couple of years. This is OK I guess, but they have given away two years of seniority, and seniority is important in the U.S. Senate.
The states also can't seem to agree about how to vacated senate seats. Some states let the governor pick, but have a fast special election. Some states let the governor pick, and then wait a couple of years for a real election. Some states just have a quick special election and let the people choose. In some states, the governor must choose someone from the same party as the leaving senator, and in other, the governor can choose someone from either party.
Senator Russ Feingold believes it is time to fix this mess. Sen. Feingold says, "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."
Feingold is proposing a new constitutional amendment. He says, "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."
This just makes sense. If a senator elected by the people vacates his/her seat, it should be the citizens of that state who choose the replacement. This is already done for House members, and there's no reason why it can't be done for senators. I think this is an excellent amendment, and I believe it has a good chance of being approved. At least, I hope so.
Once again, Russ Feingold shows us the best way to solve a problem.