Wrote late last year about the Articles of Confederation and the possibility of working through the states to call a constitutional convention according to Article 5. This would mean seeking and supporting candidates for state legislatures whose sole purpose would be to have their state call on Congress to call such a convention – an “Occupy the Constitution” movement to allow us to assemble, debate and decide on draft amendments while enjoying our Tea. It's only fair, therefore, for me to outline a few of the ways I think we might use the amendment process to change the way our government works and make it more responsive to the majority.
Simplicity in representative government may be best – a one-house Congress elected for four years choosing a Prime Minister with a ceremonial President. Whatever party wins the majority gets to implement the policies it was democratically chosen to enact. But the USA may be too big and complex to give so much power to any one institution. The Founding Fathers may have been on to something when they provided for checks-and-balances. For checks and balances, I would not touch the Supreme Court much. But it might also do to re-invigorate the role of the states both to decentralize power and to provide some degree of check-and-balance at the federal level. Here's my suggestions:
- Increase the size of the House of Representatives to allow for greater and more diverse membership and points of view. Article One, Section 2 says the number of representatives “shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand.” Congress changed this by law in the 1920s to fix the number at 435. One for every 30,000 would now mean some 10,000 representatives. That seems much. But why not 1000?
- Elect the House for four year terms so its members can do something other than campaign all the time.
- Allow the House to choose the Prime Minister. He/she would be head of government, commander-in-chief and choose the cabinet and senior government officials (including ambassadors), assuming the powers contained in Section 2 of Article 2 without the need to seek advice and consent.
- The House would originate all bills and approve all treaties, assuming all the functions and limitations contained in Sections 7, 8 and 9 of Article 1.
- No commitment of US troops abroad for any time and any purpose would be possible without a majority vote in the House specifying the duration and terms.
- Repeal the 17th Amendment on popular election of the Senate. Make senators appointed by state legislatures to two year terms. Senators would represent the States at the federal level.
- The Senate would have the authority by majority vote to reject laws and treaties passed by the House. The House could overcome the veto by a 60% vote. (We want to have checks and balances without completely tying the hands of the majority.)
- Members of the Supreme Court would be nominated by the Prime Minister and approved by majority vote of the Senate to serve single terms of 15 or 20 years.
- The President would be chosen by the House and be confined to being the ceremonial head of state. (Or we could abolish the office altogether.)
- Congressional campaign funding would be limited to public sources – money collected by the national treasury and doled out equally to candidates gaining sufficient support through local petitions – and individual contributions limited to some modest amount, say $200.
It might be good as well to take a hard look at the proliferation of government departments. We might grandfather State, Treasury and War – the first created – as well as Justice. But some of the others may be doing things better left to the states or society?