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.