Monday, February 28, 2011

The Saucer is as Hot as the Tea

The Saucer is as Hot as the Tea; Salena Zito;

The only sound visitors hear on the Senate side of the U.S. Capitol on an early Sunday morning is the click of heels on the marble floor, echoing off the 20-foot ceiling.

Hard to imagine that, less than 100 years ago, the men serving here weren’t elected by voters.

“That is because the Framers did not want two chambers to be controlled by the frenzy of popular opinion,” said Senate historian Donald Ritchie.

From 1789 to 1912, senators were elected by state legislatures. That changed in 1913 with ratification of the Constitution's 17th Amendment.

The Senate joined the House in direct elections thanks to the Progressive Era and a series of articles in Cosmopolitan magazine by David Graham Philips, entitled “Treason of the Senate.”

The series helped to create public demand for direct elections, overcoming Senate resistance.

“The Progressives thought that the people would make the right choice in a Senate election,” said Ritchie. In the next election, “all the incumbents who ran, won, and most of the Progressive candidates lost, taking the steam out of the Progressive movement.”

According to legend, George Washington told Thomas Jefferson the Senate’s purpose was to "cool" House legislation just as a saucer cools hot tea.

Read the rest here.

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