An illegitimate Congress? You betcha

Part 2 of American Vision by Bruce Ticker

The Republican leadership is asking its members to make a silly vote. — House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, April 1, 2011

Blame Congress.

Even more, blame the rules of the game that enable the Congress we have.

More after the jump.
Congress is hardly the only culprit responsible for bad government, but Capitol Hill is the starting point. The majority in Congress can declare war, or shift this power to the president; raise or cut taxes, especially for the rich; send troops…not to mention the National Guard…to fight Muslims in two unstable countries; and provide or deny our most vulnerable citizens housing, food, health care and quality education.

Congress can also violate the U.S. Constitution, as did 221 members of the House of Representatives via some bizarre legislation on April 1, 2011.

All 221 members ignored Article 1, Section 7, of the Constitution which was recited on the House floor on Jan. 6, 2011. All supporters of the bill in question were Republicans, the very ones who insisted that the Constitution and its 27 amendments be recited when Congress opened its 2011-12 session.

All Democrats and 15 Republicans voted against H.R. 1255. Rep. Louie Gohmert, a Texas Republican, said the bill “violates my conscience and the Constitution, and I cannot vote for it.”

Our system is not perfect, but the 221 representatives who voted for the bill cheapened our way of doing the people’s business.

H.R. 1255 required that a fiscal year 2011 spending bill, already passed by the House, would become law if the Senate would not pass a spending law by April 6.

There is a reason the bill never became law after that date – the Constitution, which requires that a bill can only become law after both houses pass a law and the president signs it, or the president refuses to sign and both houses override his veto by a two-thirds vote.

The provision reads, “Every bill which shall have passed The House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it becomes a Law, be presented to the President of the United States: If he approve he shall sign it, but if not he shall return it, with his Objections to that House in which it shall have originated, who shall enter the Objections at large on their Journal, and proceed to reconsider it. If after such reconsideration two thirds of that House shall agree to pass the Bill, it shall be sent, together with the Objections, to the other House, by which it shall likewise be reconsidered, and if approved by two thirds of that House, it shall become a law.”

In the less than genteel debates over the April 1 budget bill, The Hill newspaper quoted House Majority Leader Eric Cantor saying,

Funding the government at the levels passed by House Republicans might be what Senator Reid wants, but surely even he would agree that it’s a better alternative than shutting down the government.

Cantor, a Republican from the Richmond, Va., area, was referring to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada.

Some Democratic representatives recommended that Cantor and his flock read children’s books on the Constitution such as House Mouse, Senate Mouse, according to The Hill. Then-Rep. Anthony Weiner of Queens quipped, “It’s a much thinner book and it rhymes.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco invoked the most mature comment when she declared, “What you see on the floor today is no example of democracy in action. It’s silly. The Republican leadership is asking its members to make a silly vote.”


On the surface, Congress is representative government. After all, each of us can claim representation by one member of the House of Representatives and two members of the Senate, with the exception of those living in Washington and the U.S. territories.

Some Americans are represented better than others. In reality, Congress neither represents the majority of Americans nor adequately protects the rights of minorities. Congress is mainly hobbled by two inherent mechanisms and one of its own making.

First is the constitutional mandate for disproportionate representation in the Senate allowing each state equal clout – whether a senator represents 544,000 citizens or 36.9 million. Second is the stifling two-party system which thwarts meaningful participation of third parties and independent candidates in the political process. If more independents could get elected, is it possible that neither party could claim a majority in either chamber? The Senate’s composition is aggravated by the filibuster rule, which the Senate majority can revise or eliminate.

On May 30, 1787, the Virginia Plan was introduced to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia proposing a national government consisting of a legislature, executive and judiciary. The concept for a legislature subsequently materialized as two houses of Congress – each to represent American citizens on a proportionate basis. On June 9, New Jersey delegate William Paterson declared, “New Jersey will never confederate on the plan before the Committee. She would be swallowed up.”

Virginia was the most populous state at that time, followed by Pennsylvania. New Jersey was among the small states, yet now New Jersey outranks Virginia, respectively 11th and 12th in population. New Jersey was joined in opposition by delegates from Delaware, Maryland, Connecticut and New York, the latter of which is now our third most populous state. Despite Delaware’s current ranking of 45th, all five states are part of the northeastern bloc that traditionally adheres to moderate and liberal policies. Each is represented by centrist or liberal Democrats in the Senate.

On June 11, Roger Sherman of Connecticut proposed “that the proportion of suffrage in the first branch should be according to the respective numbers of free inhabitants; and that in the second branch or Senate, each state should have one vote and no more…As the states would remain possessed of certain individual rights, each state ought to be able to protect itself; otherwise a few large states will rule the rest.” Sherman revised his proposal on June 20 and was joined by fellow Connecticut delegates Oliver Ellsworth and William Samuel Johnson on June 29 in proposing a comparable plan, later to become known as the Connecticut Compromise.

“Too many – both among the large- and small-state delegations – were simply not in a mood to embrace compromise,” Richard Beeman writes in “Plain, Honest Men: The Making of the American Constitution.” “One by one, they rose to defend their ideas and, more importantly, the interests of their particular states.” The delegates ignored all three versions of the Connecticut plan until July 16, when they decided to split the composition of the two chambers. Members of the House of Representatives would each represent the same amount of constituents (that number now averages 720,000) and each state would be represented by the same number of senators.

Madison and four other delegates gathered the next morning, July 17, to discuss the July 16 decision. They found no takers to reconsider the Connecticut Compromise, which was formalized in Article 1 of the Constitution. Most delegates, displeased with the final product for varying reasons, signed the Constitution on Sept. 17, 1787, because their choice was to persist with the status quo or formalize the governing mechanism produced by the convention.

In the Federalist Papers, Madison argued for Section 3 of Article 1, which authorizes creation of a Senate with equal representation. The Constitution was ratified by 11 of the 13 states, and Congress as we know it today convened on Wall Street in lower Manhattan on March 4, 1789. George Washington was inaugurated as our first president on April 30, 1789.

Nine states were required to ratify the Constitution, made official by New Hampshire on June 21, 1788. North Carolina and Rhode Island made it unanimous soon after the government was formed.

Washington strenuously warned against the formation of political parties in his 1796 farewell address in part because “it is the customary weapon by which free governments are destroyed.” Political parties indeed emerged. After the Civil War, the political process settled into a pattern dominated by the Democratic and Republican parties.

In 2006 and 2008, voters upset with Republicans mainly had Democrats as an alternative. In 2010, Republicans benefited. Independent or third-party candidates typically divert votes from the more preferred party candidate.

The filibuster was rooted in Vice President Aaron Burr’s verbal critique of Senate rules. He singled out a Senate rule requiring the majority to cut off debate, and the Senate scrapped the rule in 1806 without replacing it. More than a century later, political pressures produced the filibuster in 1917, requiring a so-called super-majority to end debate. The filibuster carried debate to the extreme in which debate could clog up Senate business indefinitely.


A tsunami warning buoy

The upshot of these events is a dysfunctional system that in 2011 produced a possibly illegitimate Congress; cuts to a tsunami-warning system; and the criminal conviction of an impeachment leader.

The swearing-in for 433 House members of the 112th Congress was held on Wednesday afternoon, Jan. 5, 2011, as two other members – Michael Fitzpatrick of Bucks County, a Philadelphia suburb, and Pete Sessions of Dallas – attended a reception a few hundred yards away, in the Capitol Visitor Center, for more than 500 of Fitzpatrick’s constituents.

As Speaker of the House John A. Boehner administered the oath of office on the House floor, Sessions and Fitzpatrick watched Boehner on live television and recited the oath without leaving the reception, at 2:15 p.m. Predictably, House parliamentarians told them they must be officially sworn in, and Boehner administered the oath of office on Thursday.

Fitzpatrick said he thought that the Jan. 5 swearing-in would be held at 2:45, not 2:15. Any situation could arise that might prevent a member of Congress from attending the swearing-in.

Their failure to show up for the oath does not by itself jeopardize the operations of Congress. The act of casting votes for six legislative measures – before taking their oath of office – could be problematic.

Because two illegitimate congressmen cast votes, can these measures be legitimate?

If Sessions and Fitzpatrick paid attention when the Constitution was recited on Thursday morning, they would have been aware of Article VI, Clause 3: “The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution.”

Sessions and Fitzpatrick violated Clause 3 when they voted to establish the rules of the House and a 5 percent reduction in congressional office allowances, according to The Washington Post. Their votes were stricken from the Congressional Record on Friday, but was that sufficient?

This fact remains: The House passed six measures in which two illegal votes were cast for each. That could make the entire package of bills illegal. Any one of these bills which, if they need to be ratified by the Senate and signed by the president, could be illegitimate because illegal votes were cast in the first place.

Sessions even chaired a committee meeting on Thursday.

They should have arranged to be sworn in before casting any votes. It takes plenty of gall to cast votes without abiding by the constitutional requirement to be “bound by Oath or Affirmation.” They should have known better. Sessions spent the previous 14 years in Congress and Fitzpatrick was first elected in 2004, defeated two years later and elected again the preceding November.

Their allies might argue that these measures would have passed without their votes, so it is okay to maintain the results. However, the initial inclusion of these votes could taint the end result.

Congress disregarded our constitutional principles. The House took legislative action that was not legitimate. The only way to make it legitimate is to wipe the slate clean and hold the votes and the committee meeting again.

The House not only violated the Constitution when it took on those six votes. The House persists in violating the Constitution so long as it refuses to straighten out its self-inflicted mess.

This is not parsing. The law is the law is the law. If our own Congress cannot abide by the law that binds it, then our system is automatically violated.

Next excerpt – Profiles in absurdity

American Vision – Prologue

Prologue of American Vision by Bruce Ticker

Bruce Ticker has written a new book American Vision. He has given us permission to publish this work as a weekly series. Here is the prologue.

Even on a day when almost nothing happens, the course of American history can be set for more than two centuries.

One such day was July 17, 1787. The birth of the Connecticut Compromise is customarily dated to July 16, 1787, when the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia approved a fresh but flawed legislative system, as part of a broader package of provisions for the budding Constitution.

Prior to 10 a.m. on the 17th, delegates from the most populous states to the Convention gathered at what is now Philadelphia’s Independence Hall to assess the convention’s vote from the day before.

The Connecticut Compromise created a split form of government: Each member of the House of Representatives would represent the same number of Americans, on a proportionate basis, and each state would be represented by the same number of senators regardless of population.

More after the jump.
The compromise split the difference between the Virginia Plan for proportionate representation in both chambers and the response to the Virginia delegates, the New Jersey Plan. New Jersey’s delegates, afraid that the large states would overwhelm smaller states like New Jersey, demanded equal representation in all chambers.

Under Convention rules, each delegate had the right to raise any issue whenever they wanted, even after a decisive vote was taken. That means the issue could be reopened on any given day, and that day was July 17.

The main players of this caucus – Virginians James Madison and Edmund Randolph, Pennsylvanians James Wilson and Gouverneur Morris, and Rufus King of Massachusetts – reopened the issue, however briefly. They met to discuss how to react to the July 16 vote on the basis of their insistence that both the House and Senate should represent the people on a proportionate basis.

As constitutional scholar Richard Beeman writes, Madison reported that “the time was wasted in vague conversation on the subject, without any specific proposition or agreement.”

In his book “Plain, Honest Men: The Making of the American Constitution,” Beeman characterizes the outcome this way: “He discovered much to his chagrin that only a handful of delegates felt as strongly about the issue as he did, and no one was willing to risk the outcome of the Convention on it.”

So on March 4, 1789, the newly-revamped Congress convened in New York City for the first time at Wall and Nassau streets, eight blocks southeast of the future site of the demolished World Trade Center. Actually, it took roughly a month before either chamber had a quorum. Come April 30, George Washington was inaugurated at the same site as the first president of the United States.

Madison and the other four were apprehensive about a Senate where each state is authorized to send the same number of senators to Congress. As Beeman puts it, “They held the principled view that it was wrong to give any state government, be it a large state or a small one, too much weight and authority within the national government. The only way to avoid that injustice was to represent the people according to their numbers.”

History would repeatedly prove Madison and associates to be right. For example, the senators from New Jersey, Frank R. Lautenberg and Robert Menendez, and Maryland, Barbara A. Mikulski and Benjamin L. Cardin, discovered in 2010 that the wealthy would retain their tax cuts and health-care reform would be watered down. Delaware Sens. Thomas R. Carper and Christopher A. Coons advocate for most of the same concerns affecting the three states.

Such lapses are mainly rooted in how the Senate is composed in combination with its much-abused filibuster rule.

More than two centuries earlier, the chief opponents of proportionate representation in the Senate represented Delaware, Maryland, Connecticut, New Jersey and New York. Though Delaware ranks 45th in population with 844,000 residents, New Jersey now ranks 11th with 8.7 million people and Maryland is 19th, population 5.6 million, according to Census Bureau figures. With 19.5 million people, New York is now the third most populous state.

Many of the 37.5 million Americans from these states are paying today in large part because of the Connecticut Compromise.

Electoral vote: Our state has historic opportunity

Pennsylvania has the chance to join an initiative to establish the popular vote for the presidency. Why play games with the electoral vote?

Bruce Ticker testified to the Pennsylvania State Government Committees arguing against the Republican attempt to re-engineer Pennsylvania’s electoral vote in their favor. His solution for a fairer Presidential election?
The National Popular Vote.

Written testimony follows the jump.
The Hon. Members of the Pennsylvania Legislature:

I love the United States. I feel so very lucky to have been born in this country. The Constitution was signed on Sept. 17, 1787, and was subsequently ratified by the 13 states. Congress formally convened in March 1789 and George Washington was inaugurated as our first President on April 30, 1789.

The Constitution is a great document that has served as the foundation for our governing process. It nonetheless contains serious flaws.

I have long been concerned about the system for choosing a President as authorized by the Constitution. Why do I phrase it that way? Yes, it’s a mouthful. Wouldn’t it be simpler to call it the presidential election? This process is not an election.

Your proposal to seek an alternative to the winner-takes-all method has its merits and drawbacks. However, any process administered in the framework of the Electoral College is inequitable and insults the intelligence of the average voter.

There is only one fair and just means of selecting the people who run our government – the direct vote. Every time each of you runs for office, you trust the judgment of your constituents. You accept that. Otherwise, you would not remain part of the system.

The direct vote must also be the means for choosing our Presidents. Especially, successful presidential candidates have assumed the Presidency four times without winning the popular vote. The last time this occurred was only 11 years ago.

I respectfully request that you abandon this course and direct your energies and resources to replace the electoral college with the popular vote. I confess that until recently I thought we had only one avenue available – the amendment process. Any amendment approved by Congress must be ratified by three-fourths of the 50 states. Theoretically, 14 million citizens can block an amendment. That is the collective population of the 13 or 14 least populous states. Our current population is estimated at 308 million people.

The amendment process is an arduous obstacle course.

To my delight, I learned that Gov. Jerry Brown of California signed legislation on Aug. 8, 2011, to participate in an initiative which would effectively sideline the electoral vote without struggling through the amendment process.

This initiative, called the National Popular Vote, has been lobbying officials in the 50 states to agree to an interstate compact. Each state would agree to release its electoral votes to the presidential candidate who wins the vote nationwide.

To succeed, this system requires the participation of states with a combined 270 electoral votes, the majority currently required for a candidate to win.

Gov. Brown’s signature added 55 electoral votes to the initiative, the largest collection of votes from America’s most populous state. This step raised the total from 77 to 132 votes.

You now have an historic opportunity to build on the foundation of our system, the Constitution. You can contribute to providing the United States with the direct vote for President. You can start the process now to consider participating in this initiative.

Pennsylvania would add 20 electoral votes. The popular vote would provide all of us with a direct measure of power in selecting our president. It would expand upon our freedoms and enliven the political process.

The framers of our Constitution did not create the electoral system in a vacuum. Historians cite a number of interrelated factors. Among them, communications were sparse. No e-mails, no Action News, newspapers were just starting to evolve. The average citizen had no realistic means of being informed of the qualifications of the candidates.

Because of our technological advances and the range of today’s news media, voters today can readily access the qualifications of the presidential candidates. For that matter, we often get too much information about them.

It is hardly news to you that the majority party has been accused of proposing this plan to obtain political advantage. Practically speaking, the popular vote will likely benefit Democrats because Democratic-leaning voters are clustered more in metropolitan areas, and Republicans tend to be scattered more in the suburbs and rural areas. For the record, I am a registered Democrat.

My prime concern is good government in order to better serve the public. The popular vote can only facilitate good government. I can think of reforms that Democratic Party leaders may not be anxious to embrace.

Again, I ask you to abandon this proposal for awarding electoral votes. Forgive the cliché, but that plan accomplishes nothing more than rearranging the deck chairs. Please focus your attention on ending the impact of the electoral college.

Thank you for your attention.

Bruce S. Ticker

 

Eliminate the Debt Ceiling

— Dr. Daniel E. Loeb

The United State and Denmark are the only countries in the World that have an official debt ceiling. In most countries, once the Legislature establishes a budget authorizing certain expenses and establishing a tax policy, simple arithmetic indicates how the Legislature’s decisions will increase or decrease that countries debt.

Only Denmark has a system similar to the United States where the legislature has to approve increases to the debt separately from approving the budget. The Danish set the ceiling high enough so that it never slows the process of borrowing money and they can avoid political conflicts like the one currently gripping the U.S.

Barry Bosworth, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institute, said the U.S. debt ceiling “has no logical basis.”

Congress, through budget and appropriations bills, has sole authority to decide how much the government will spend, so he said “it makes no sense to have a secondary rule to then object to the deficit that emerges from the other decisions.” (ABC News)

Perhaps Congress should have sought additional revenues by — for example — allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire, or by taxing the income of hedge fund managers and corporations the same way they tax the income of working Americans.

Perhaps Congress should have decreased expenses by — for example — pulling out of Afghanistan or switching to a single-payer health insurance system and empowering it to negotiate with pharmaceuticals for the best possible rates.

However, having not done so, Congress has caused that the national debt to increase, and failing to honor the resulting commitments is irresponsible and probably an unconstitutional violation of Section 4 of the 14th amendment.

The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned.

The Tea Party often uses the household budget as a model for the U.S. budget. However, suppose my wife and I decided to work in jobs earning a total of $50,000, and we decided to make purchases totaling $100,000. Eventually, the credit card bill arrives and showing an increase in debt as a direct consequence of the choices I made. Do I have the right to impose a “debt ceiling” and refuse to recognize the debt I have incurred about this arbitrary limit?

Surely not.

And surely the United States Congress does not have the right to hold the “full faith and credit” of the United States hostage to their political agenda.

Please call your Representative and urge him or her to eliminate or raise the debt ceiling. See writerep.house.gov to find your Represenative’s contact information.

New York Times chart breaking down the source of the debt follows jump.

Taking the 14th

A lot of trouble could have been avoided had President Obama invoked the 14th Amendment to unilaterally raise the debt limit. Obviously, the president had his reasons for taking the Republicans head on.

Ironic that President Obama will openly violate the Constitution over Libya yet sidestep a chance to avoid a major uproar.

The president may well have constitutional authority to direct the Department of Treasury to pay its bills, He could have averted the current spectacle that seems to rival biblical proportions.

Prior to the debt-limit situation, Obama continued military operations in Libya without receiving congressional authorization after 60 days, as required by the War Powers Act in lieu of a declaration of war by Congress.

Republicans exploited the deadline to raise the $14.3 trillion debt limit to sever $2 trillion in programs that serve ordinary Americans without raising taxes on the wealthy or even eliminating corporate tax breaks.

More after the jump.
The president may well have had the power all along to act on his own – since 1868, when the 14th Amendment was ratified.

Section 4 of the 14th Amendment is plainly written: “The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned.”

Obama no doubt had other concerns on his mind with the debt-limit debate. It was a chance to bring the entire conflict to a head, or at least expose Republican stubbornness for all to see. It is obvious that he does not want to act on his own, anyway, because he would be vulnerable to sole political blame.

That aside, he might have avoided this hassle by invoking the 14th Amendment. Like other clauses in the 14th Amendment, Section 4 directly results from a Civil War issue – the large debt that grew after the North borrowed heavily to finance the Civil War, according to The Washington Post. Sponsors of the bill wanted to ensure that Southern states paid their fair share of the nation’s debt.

Yale Law School constitutional law school professor Jack Balkin told the Post, “The purpose of that clause was to prevent the political branches from using default or repudiation as a political threat. It was designed to prevent this kind of gamesmanship.”

Which presents another irony: A heavy proportion of these members of Congress represent states and districts in the South. In fact, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor represents part of Richmond, Va., the capital of the Confederacy.

Two columnists have tried to toss cold water on use of the 14th Amendment, and they make some valid points. Constitutional law professor Laurence H. Tribe points out that a unilateral increase in the debt limit differs from the existing debt limit already authorized by Congress.

Maintaining the debt limit as is will affect all other expenses and any pressing needs that arise. To continue paying the debt, the White House will be forced to ignore spending in other crucial areas. It may not be social security, but it will need to be some important programs.

Tribe also reminds us that “the Constitution grants only Congress – not the president – the power ‘to borrow money on the credit of the United States.’ Nothing in the 14th Amendment or in any other constitutional provision suggests tht the president may usurp legislative power to prevent a violation of the Constitution.”

True, but aren’t amendments intended to amend? It states clearly that the debt “shall not be questioned.” Not only are some members of Congress questioning the debt, but they have threatened to ignore it.

Boston Globe columnist Juliette Kayyem writes, “It will not solve the credit crisis, only delay it.”

I heartily concur that we should lower the deficit and pay off our debts, but not under circumstances in which one group of politicians can blackmail the president and other members of Congress.

Besides, Republicans were not worried about debts and deficits when President Bush steered us into the invasion of Iraq and initiated legislation to cut taxes for the wealthy.

Kayyem also warns that unilateral action on Obama’s part will trigger a legal challenge. Anyone has a right to resort to legal action.

They tried everything else. Maybe they figure that the majority of the Supreme Court will be on their side.

Geither: Debt Ceiling is Unconstitutional

The United States is the only country in the world with a “debt ceiling”.

Congress has approved a budget in which revenues are insufficient to cover expenses (thanks in part to extending Bush era tax cuts to Millionaires and tax loopholes for hedge fund managers, oil companies, ethanol producers and companies which ship jobs overseas). Simple arithmetic tell you that if Congress commits to a level of expenses without providing adequate revenue, then the debt will as a consequence expand. By denying the expansion of the debt already implied by the budget Congress has passed into law, Congress defies not only logic and mathematics, but the United States Constitution itself.

Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner was asked by Mike Allen about the negotiations over default and the debt ceiling. According to Geithner, a debt ceiling requirement is unconstitutional:

Geithner: I think there are some people who are pretending not to understand it, who think there’s leverage for them in threatening a default. I don’t understand it as a negotiating position. I mean really think about it, you’re going to say that– can I read you the 14th amendment?

Geithner whipped out his handy pocket-sized Constitution. Allen tried to brush it aside.

Allen: We’ll stipulate the 14th Amendment.

Geithner :No, I want to read this one thing.

Allen: It’s paper clipped! [Geithner’s copy of the Constitution was clipped so that it would open directly to the passage in question.]

Geithner “The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for the payments of pension and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion” — this is the important thing — “shall not be questioned.”

Senate Dems limit agenda to protect small-state senators

Whew! The American people need not worry that U.S. Senate leaders might do their job, as in taking command of the legislative agenda.

More after the jump.

We sure do not want to jeopardize the Democratic Senate seats in conservative-leaning states like Montana, Nebraska and North Dakota.

Under the headline “Senate Democrats’ minimalist agenda,” The Washington Post reports that the Democratic majority has intentionally restrained itself to save seats in states like these.

The May 21 Post account states: “Democrats have decided to try to shield those lawmakers from the usual weeks-long debates and instead await for compromises to be reached behind closed doors. Reid’s approach is a bet that doing nothing looks better for them, so long as their arguments resonate with voters in 2012.”

Welcome to governance in 2011. We are stuck with an immovable Senate because doing their jobs might cause some Democrats to lose their jobs in the November 2012 election. The Democratic leadership is worried that they will lose their 51-47 majority if they overplay their hand; two senators are independents who caucus with the Democrats.

What, then, is the point of having a Senate?

Senate gridlock is rooted in the Senate’s composition when delegates from smaller states at the Constitutional Convention feared that the larger states would dominate the government under a Congress with proportionate representation. They compromised by requiring equal representation for all states in the Senate while leaving the House of Representatives with proportionate representation.

The five states that opposed proportionate representation in 1787 would surely benefit by it today, either directly or indirectly. Though a small state, Delaware is part of the liberal Northeast bloc as is Connecticut, Maryland and New Jersey…almost forgot, New York was the fifth dissident state. Rhode Island did not participate in the convention, but all six states are currently represented by Democrats in the Senate.

Most low-population states are conservative or conservative-leaning. Most are represented by Republicans in the Senate or alternate between the two parties. If Tom Daschle represented New Jersey or New York rather than South Dakota, where he lost in a re-election bid, he would almost certainly be serving in the Senate today.

Daschle’s fellow Democrats do not want others like him defeated, so they adjust their agenda to protect their Senate seats in swing states. Three of those states, where two incumbents are up for re-election and a third is retiring, are home to 3.5 million people – Nebraska, 1.7 million; Montana, 975,00; and North Dakota, 646,000.

So, 1 percent of the nation’s citizenry can propel the Senate leadership to ignore or minimize the needs and concerns of millions upon millions of Americans. Democrats in the 112th Senate represent 190 million Americans. America’s latest population estimate is 308 million.

The four Democratic senators from New York and California collectively represent one-sixth of America’s population, 36.9 million in California and 19.5 million in New York.

That leaves 56.4 million Americans, and millions from other moderate or liberal states, in the lurch.

If the Senate represented the populace on a more proportionate basis, then far more attention would likely be paid to issues raised by the senators from high-population states such as New York and California.

It is necessary to point out how the Constitution’s requirements for Senate representation limits responsiveness to residents of the more  populous states. Clarifying the problem is the first step toward resolving it.

However, I am well aware of the obstacles under the amendment process to changing the rules. On the surface, accomplishing anything substantial appears to be impossible.

One never knows. Maybe it can be done. After nearly 10 years, who genuinely expected America to find Osama bin Laden? Perhaps the same will and determination can be applied to revising the rules.

I Guess They Don’t Teach Constitutional Law at Hogwarts

Christine O’Donnell says the United States Constituion means a lot to her. She claimed to have studied “Constitutional Government at Claremont Graduate University”

Then, in last week’s debate, Christine made a big deal about her beliefs not meaning anything, if she goes to Washington, it will be to support the Constitution.

Yesterday’s debate at the Widener Law School shows the Constitution to be a document she obviously has not read with any amount of comprehension.

“Where in the Constitution is the separation of church and state?” O’Donnell asked him.

When Coons responded that the First Amendment bars Congress from making laws respecting the establishment of religion, O’Donnell asked: “You’re telling me that’s in the First Amendment?”

Her comments, in a debate aired on radio station WDEL, generated a buzz in the audience.

“You actually audibly heard the crowd gasp,” said Widener University political scientist Wesley Leckrone, adding that he thought it raised questions about O’Donnell’s grasp of the Constitution.

Note in the video how O’Donnell keeps on gleefully repeating her ignorant misunderstanding of the Constitution. She is convinced she is right and has Coons in a “gotcha” moment. She understands that someone in the room is an idiot, but unfortunately does not realize that she is it.

After that debate my team and I we were literally high fiving each other thinking that we had exposed he doesn’t know the First Amendment, and then when we read the reports that said the opposite we were all like “what?”