Federalist No. 64 begins a discussion of the powers of the Senate, specifically the power to ratify treaties.
It is interesting that the Senate and the House each possess distinct powers, reflective of the founders’ view of each institution’s strengths. The U.S. House, closer to the people, controls the “purse,” while the U.S. Senate, designed to be the more stable and mature body, handles issues such as ratification of treaties, confirmation of certain executive branch officials and Supreme Court Justices, and serves as the court for impeachment trials.
The Senate’s power to ratify treaties the President makes is another example of the brilliant system of checks and balances designed by our founders. The founders had great confidence in the ability and character of the Senators that would serve, based on the qualifications they had to meet in order to be appointed, and based on the fact that they would be appointed by the State Legislatures.
“This mode (appointment of Senators) has, in such cases, vastly the advantage of elections by the people in their collective capacity, where the activity of party zeal, taking the advantage of the supineness, the ignorance, and the hopes and fears of the unwary and interested, often places men in office by the votes of a small proportion of the electors.”
I wonder how often Federalist No. 64 was quoted during the debates on the 17th Amendment almost 100 years ago.
Publius goes on to extol the level of qualifications a Senate candidate must meet in order to be appointed, “men of whom the people have had time to form a judgment, and with respect to whom they will not be liable to be deceived by those brilliant appearances of genius and patriotism, which, like transient meteors, sometimes mislead as well as dazzle.”
In this age of sound bites, with newspapers closing every day, there is less and less substantive reporting about candidates. It seems that in the modern age, it is easier than the Founding Fathers imagined for the people to be “deceived by those brilliant appearances of genius and patriotism, which like transient meteors, sometimes mislead as well as dazzle.”
This quote jumped out at me as well:
“In proportion as the United States assume a national form and a national character, so will the good of the whole be more and more an object of attention, and the government must be a weak one indeed, if it should forget that the good of the whole can only be promoted by advancing the good of each of the parts or members which compose the whole.”
When the federal government makes policy that puts undue burdens on states, it is not “advancing the good of each of the parts or members which compose the whole.”
The Founders put every precaution and a carefully balanced structure in place to ensure members of the U.S. Senate were “men of talents and integrity.”
However, as is often repeated on these blog pages, and by Publius, the final check is “the genius of the people.”
Get to know your U.S. Senators. Which, if any, in your state are up for re-election? Research their voting record. Go to their August town hall meetings. Write them a letter. Find out if your Senator is a man, or a woman, “of talents and integrity.”
Knowledge is power!
Good night and God Bless!
Tuesday, July 27th, 2010