Some Thoughts On Our Senate

I was recently reading a piece on the Huffington Post asking the Senate to force those who want to filibuster to actually speak on the floor continuously to halt moving forward with and voting on health care legislation. If you’d like, give a read to Bring Back the Cots! The Filibuster and Health Care Reform. Then understand that I think the idea of forcing those who want to filibuster to actually speak and maintain a presence in the Senate chambers is an excellent idea. This would dramatically cut down on the use of the filibuster and reserve it for times when there is a strong reason to use it rather than just a way to force every issue to require sixty votes instead of fifty-one.

However, some comments on the post seem to miss the point of the Senate as well. There have been people saying that Senators should be apportioned by population just like happens in the House of Representatives. However, the Senate was created as it is precisely to protect smaller states, such as my state of Maine, from being overruled by larger states, such as California. While that particular aspect is undemocratic, you have to realize we are a democratic republic, which means that it’s not all about the majority. The idea is to let the majority make the decisions most of the time, while still protecting the rights of the minority. Remember, states are basically semi-autonomous nations that bought into the United States government. They all had to agree to join when the country was created, and while the Constitution is our founding document, in many ways, it is also a treaty between the states saying which powers they keep for themselves and which powers they hand over to our alliance. When considered in this light, the Senate is there to make sure each individual state has an equal voice in the proceedings, while the responsibility of the House of Representatives is to make sure the people have an equal voice in the proceedings. Sure, this system isn’t perfect, but it is better than just doing representation by population in both houses, or equal state representation in both houses.

Now, I’ll be honest, I’m very dismayed that our Senators are speaking against meaningful health care reform, and if it were my choice, we’d have the democratic candidates in the Senate right now. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case, so we are dragging the debate down because of that. So I understand the frustration of those in other parts of the country, and I encourage all Maine residents to communicate their views on this to our Senators to try to sway them on their positions.

However, that doesn’t mean smaller states should lose their equal representation in the Senate. We should just lose the power to filibuster with impunity. This would go a long way toward restoring the balance of power as it seems to be intended.

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