Villanova University School of Law Professor Tuan Samahon spoke as a guest of the Harrisburg campus Federalist Society
on Wednesday September 1, 2010. His speech was entitled “How to Restore Federalism’s Political Safeguards.” He addressed the extensive changes that the Seventeenth Amendment produced and how federalism’s political safeguards might be restored.
Professor Samahon started by pointing out that the typical American law school’s constitutional law curriculum pays scant attention to the 22nd Amendment which had a “far reaching effect on the framers’ federalism” by putting an end to the direct election of senators.
He explained that the indirect election more effectively safeguarded federalism for several reasons. The indirect election process made the U.S. Senate more closely represent the interest of the states as actors in the legislative process, in the impeachment process, and during the advisement and consent processes. He stated it was also more effective because of the accountability tools and that there was also more legislative instruction for the states.
Several critiques of the pre-17th amendment era were that Senators were simply part of the “Millionaires Club on the Potomac,” that corruption and graft ran rampant, and that the people lacked representation due to stalemates in some state legislative elections.
However, Professor Samahon pointed out that these faults are still apparent even after the 17th Amendment was created. Today almost half of the senators are multimillionaires. Additionally, the role of money grew significantly after the 17th Amendment because of campaign costs and the fact that gaps are filled by interest groups. In addition, there are still representation problems, such as the legislative delays in seating Senators because of campaign recounts in litigation.
Professor Samahon suggests that in order to restore political safeguards one possibility is by adjusting the way we make Constitutional amendments. He suggested a model of the 22nd Amendment to restore political safeguards.
Tuan Samahon is a Professor at Villanova University School of Law. He earned his B.A. from Brigham Young University and his J.D. from the Georgetown University School of Law. He teaches in the areas of Constitutional Law, Federal Courts, and Complex Litigation.