November 25, 2013 1 Comment
So tired of the argument that there’s really no difference between the House and the Senate if you take away the filibuster. That, of course, is absurd. Seth Masket lays out exactly why so:
But let’s say it [complete elimination of the filibuster] does happen. Would the Senate be just like the House?
No, it really wouldn’t, for reasons that have much to do with the way the Founders set up the two chambers in the first place. Senators are, of course, elected on six-year terms. Only a third of the Senate is up for re-election in any given cycle, automatically giving that chamber a different outlook on political accountability and vulnerability from its counterpart.
Similarly, representation is obviously very different across the two chambers. Senators represent entire states as opposed to individual districts. This gives them different perspectives from most House members’ and different incentives regarding representation. It also creates a notable representational skew toward smaller states. All House districts are of roughly equal size, while a Senator may represent as few as 500,000 people or as many as 38,000,000. A resident of Wyoming gets a lot more representation in the Senate than a Californian does…
The different sizes of the chambers are also relevant. The reason that the House has historically been a less individualistic chamber with stronger parties and committees and more stringent rules regarding legislative debates is because that’s what you have to do when you have a large deliberative chamber. Four hundred thirty five people simply can not all know each other well or conduct civilized debates without strict rules. This is a principal of large numbers rather than a commentary on declining civility. In a chamber of 100, however, where the membership is more stable, friendships, personalities, and reputations may become more relevant in organizing legislative business. The smaller chamber will always be the more collegial one and the one that allows more open debate…
For all these reasons, even a Senate run under uniform principles of majority rule would behave very differently and serve very different constituencies than the House would. Legislation would still receive a thorough airing prior to becoming law, and there would still be a bias against action in the federal government.
Yeah, that. Somehow the Senate was quite a different body than the House before the modern abuse of the filibuster, and so it would be in a post-filibuster world. And to suggest eliminating the filibuster only for federal judicial and executive branch nominations somehow makes the Senate “just like the House” is beyond ignorant.