State Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Eagle, and Vaughn Ward created quite a stir when both said Saturday night at a Tea Party forum in Eagle that they would support repealing the 17th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. That amendment, pushed forward with the help of former legendary Idaho Sen. William Borah, a Republican, took the right to choose U.S. senators away from state legislatures and gave it to the voting public in 1913.
Rep. Mike Simpson, a Republican representing Idaho's 2nd Congressional District, is completely opposed to the idea. Nikki Watts, Simpson's spokesperson for his congressional office, said that removing the right to choose senators from the people would be detrimental and would reduce senators' accountability to taxpayers. "He believes that the citizens of Idaho are doing a pretty good job of electing Idaho's senators," said Watts. The other three members of Idaho's congressional delegation, Congressman Walt Minnick, a Democrat, and Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch, both Republicans, also oppose repealing the amendment. It is unclear where Idaho Gov. Butch Otter stands on the issue; he was reportedly critical of the amendment at a Tea Party rally in Spokane in April, but did not straightforwardly call for its repeal. Otter spokesman Jon Hanion said that the governor is on vacation this week and is unavailable for comment.
Simpson's opponents in the May 25 Republican Primary election feel the same way as Ward and Labrador. State Rep. Russ Mathews, R-Idaho Falls, and Chick Heileson, also of Idaho Falls, both support repeal. Mathews told IdahoReporter.com that pealing back the measure is one way for states to get a handle on of an out-of-control government that spends too much. "We have a federal government that is encroaching up states' rights and that would be one way for the states to push back," said Mathews.
Enoch Heileson, son of the candidate and also his communication director, said his father would also support repeal if the issue ever arose in Congress. Like Mathews, Heileson feels that removing the amendment would bring the federal government back within the intentions of the founders of the country. "Chick feels it gives the states stronger representation in federal affairs," said the younger Heileson. "When the Constitution was originally written, the House of Representatives were supposed to be the voice of the common people and the Senate was intended to represent the interests of the states."
Back in Idaho's 1st Congressional District, Ward offered his reasoning for being in favor of repeal. Here's Ward statement to IdahoReporter.com about why he supports removing the amendment:
The framers of the constitution originally placed the responsibility of electing our Senators in the hands of the state legislature. The House of Representatives was to represent the people and the Senate was to be tied directly to the states. With the passing of the 17th Amendment, the Senate was no longer beholden to the states and the slow erosion of the 10th Amendment began. I do favor returning this responsibility to our state legislatures, but, realistically speaking, I do not think the amendment will ever be repealed.
Labrador has declined to comment on the issue.