Repealing the Seventeenth Amendment, which provides that voters and not state legislators will choose United States senators, is a cause célèbre among the purest of Tea Party conservatives. Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) opposes allowing voters to choose their own senators, as does Justice Antonin Scalia, and Sens. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Ted Cruz (R-TX). As Jonathan Bernstein explains, opposing the Seventeenth Amendment has become a key way that Tea Party politicians can show off their conservative credentials in a GOP caught up in a “general, party-wide obsession with being a True Conservative . . . where pretty much every party actor agrees on matters of ideology and on specific issues of public policy.”
This quest for purity is on full display in Texas, where two of the four Republican candidates for lieutenant governor — including incumbent Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst — called for voters to lose their ability to choose their own senators this month. According to candidate and state Sen. Dan Patrick (R-TX), “[g]ross overreaches of the federal government, like Obamacare, would never have seen the light of day if the states were still represented strongly in Congress through the Senate, as it was originally envisioned.”
Unlike in most states, where the lieutenant governor is little more than a placeholder waiting to assume power if the governor resigns or dies, Texas’s lieutenant governor official wields significant power, including the ability to control the state’s budgeting process.
Yet, while the fact that two of the four candidates for this important job are well outside the constitutional mainstream certainly raises eyebrows, the most interesting development in this race to the conservative bottom is a statement from state Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson (R) explaining why he opposes repealing the Seventeenth Amendment. “I do not advocate the repeal of the 17th Amendment,” Patterson posted on Facebook. “Without it, Texas would not have Sen. Ted Cruz today.”