US senator's solution to ‘Make Senate Great'? Cut the cameras, don't let popular vote elect lawmakers, expand terms to 12 years
Republican Senator Ben Sasse is at the center of a national online discussion after his ideas to reform the US Senate according to the Founding Fathers' supposed wishes were critiqued as both undemocratic and simply “weird.”
Sasse’s Wall Street Journal opinion piece, published on Tuesday and titled “Make the Senate Great Again,” most notably made the case for repealing the 17th amendment of the constitution. This change would put an end to US senators being elected by statewide popular vote. The Nebraska legislator would like the country to go back to the pre-1912 amendment rule, where state legislatures voted on the two senators being sent to Washington, DC.
Perhaps the second-most discussed idea in Sasse’s plan to fight the Senate’s “bipartisan rot” was to house its legislators together in dormitories to “promote debate.” The would-be reformer would also like to get rid of the cameras which record and livestream the legislating sessions. In the presence of cameras, senators “aren’t trying to learn from witnesses, uncover details, or improve legislation. They’re competing for sound bites,” he wrote. “Without posturing for cameras, Republicans and Democrats cooperate on some of America’s most complicated and urgent problems.”
Additionally, Sasse proposed twelve-year term limits and abolishing standing committees, requiring senators to show up for debates.
Sasse’s ideas were widely regarded as unsubstantive and “weird” online, as he proposed some procedural changes which would not materially affect any power dynamics in Washington.
But nothing about campaign finance reform? Ben Sasse you’re a weird little fella— Michael Drake (@mikedrake178) September 9, 2020
Is there a great national demand for Young Ben Sasse to redesign the government? Did I miss a meeting?— Charles P. Pierce (@CharlesPPierce) September 9, 2020
Everything you need to know about Ben Sasse is summed up by his refusal to concede the Electoral College is enormously flawed but he'll write a national op-ed proposing senators be elected by state legislatures, live in a dormitory with other senators, and serve 12 year terms.— Charlotte Clymer 🏳️🌈 (@cmclymer) September 9, 2020
Some commenters were much more alarmist, however, saying that Sasse wants the Senate to be “less accountable.”
Some of Ben Sasse's ideas in that op-ed--no video of committee proceedings, single terms, ending direct election of Senators--are basically: if you make us less accountable to the people, we'll do a better job we promise.— Adam Smith (@asmith83) September 9, 2020
There were some Twitter users, though, who thought that a lot of Sasse’s ideas “make sense” and could “restore functional government.”
Yes, I’m no political scientist, but great from Ben Sasse. A lot of this makes sense — not term limits, because future accountability to voters is a good think in a Democracy — but great to think about systemic changes to restore functional government. https://t.co/X5IlEAiikQ— Jonathan A. Parker (@ProfJAParker) September 9, 2020
Sasse has the national media spotlight since becoming known as a ‘populist’ and his party’s rising political star. Despite that, lately the senator’s persona has become quite a controversial one, after his multiple falls in and out of favor with Republican President Donald Trump. For now, their turbulent relationship settled on Trump labeling Sasse a RINO – a Republican in name only – back in August.
Like this story? Share it with a friend!