“Our democracy depends upon political power residing with the people. Senators, like Members of the House, should be elected representatives. Gubernatorial appointments are a vestige of a bygone era that has disenfranchised millions of Americans and been subject to repeated abuse.” – Congressman Kevin Kiley
Background: Rep. Kiley, a member of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee and Subcommittee on the Constitution and Limited Government, has introduced a constitutional amendment requiring the election of U.S. Senators in the event of a vacancy. Rep. Kiley’s constitutional amendment would require a special election to fill a vacated Senate seat, putting an end to the patchwork of appointment procedures that have been implemented since the adoption of the Seventeenth Amendment. You can read a copy of the amendment here.
Under the Seventeenth Amendment, the temporary appointment of a U.S. Senator in the event of a vacancy is permitted, with state law controlling the specific appointment procedure. This authority has previously been subject to egregious abuse, such as Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich attempting to sell Senator Barack Obama’s Senate seat or governors repeatedly appointing their spouses, their family members or even themselves.
In California currently, one U.S. Senator (Alex Padilla) originally gained his seat through gubernatorial appointment rather than an election by the people. Leading California politicians are now trying to make way for another Senate appointment by pressuring Senator Feinstein to resign. Rep. Barbara Lee, currently campaigning for the Senate seat, stated she would certainly accept an appointment by Governor Gavin Newsom. Rep. Ro Khanna, co-chair of Rep. Lee’s campaign, publicly pressured Feinstein to step down and Rep. Sydney Kamlager suggested Governor Newsom appoint Lee in the event of a vacancy. Over two years ago, Governor Newsom himself publicly speculated about who he may appoint in the event of a Feinstein vacancy, stating “I have multiple names in mind.”
In addition, since the adoption of the Seventeenth Amendment allowing for “temporary” appointments, judicial decisions have created great uncertainty over what qualifies as temporary. This has led to absurd results, such as last year when the seat occupied by Senator Padilla was on the ballot twice in one election: once for a full U.S. Senate term and once for the final weeks of the term to which Padilla had been appointed.