- The Congress of the United States is composed of
2 legislative bodies: the House & the Senate.
- The upper chamber represents the states of our Federal Union,
- with 2 Senators from each state,
- and with terms of office that are 3 times as long as those in the House
- and which are staggered so that no more than 1/3 of the Senate changes at a time.
-- The Senate was intended to be the more "deliberative" body,
as a "Check & Balance"
against the rapid mood swings of popular majorities.
- The House (OTOH) represents the people.
Members are "Representatives".
(Not "Congressmen" -- there's no such thing in the Constitution; it's a silly word, esp. since Senators are also in Congress.)
- Representatives were to be elected for short terms,
directly by the citizens living in a small district.
- Unfortunately, there is no set number or size
for these districts.
The founders of this Constitutional Republic
wanted to make sure that it remained a Democracy,
and that the House would always represent
the people directly -- not thru establishment factions or parties.
They wanted to make sure
there would always be competition for House seats
(even tho that used to mean slogging off after harvest time
for one or two sessions during their 2-year term,
and finishing up before the Summer humidity in Washington
drove them home again!)
- They also wanted to make sure that the state and party establishments
could not block the popular will,
by making it impossible for independent, local citizens
to get on the ballot.
- The founders also worried that the House might become
as well as undemocratic,
would be to let districts become so large
that each "Representative"
would feel more loyalty to the state and party bigwigs
than to the locals,
and would no longer represent the citizens of the district.
- ("Rotation in Office" was another of the checks and balances,
but with small local districts,
that was expected to happen automatically
which is why specific term limits were not set.)
- (Besides, with an average lifespan in the 40s,
and minimum ages of more than half of that,
going to Congress was something people did AFTER a career;
not before a career; and certainly not AS a career!)
- In the contemporary writings (incl. Fed. & Anti-Fed. papers),
all agreed on the importance of House districts remaining small,
and close to the people,
and having lots of turnover.
Before ratifying the new Constitution,
several states demanded and got the passage by Congress
of additional amendments to assure individual liberties
and to keep the Federal government democratic.
- A "Bill of Rights" had to be passed by Congress
before all 13 states would join together.
Two of the articles dealt with ways to make sure that the House
always remained representative
of the people. They said:
- Congress cannot raise its own pay,
without standing for election again
(before the raise takes effect).
- House Districts must remain small
(to represent local citizens, rather than
establishments of the state or party).
The Bill of Rights contained 12 articles, not 10.
All TWELVE articles were passed by both houses of Congress,
with the required 2/3 supermajority in each chamber.
Ten of them, specifically protecting individual rights
and limiting the powers of the Congress,
were ratified immediately by the required 3/4 supermajority
of the state legislatures.
The two Bill-of-Rights articles about the Congress itself
were not ratified right away, but remained valid bills.
- One of these two BoR articles completed the ratification process
exactly ten years ago:
On the 7th of May, 1992
it became the XXVII Amendment to the Constitution.
- The last remaining article of the original Bill of Rights,
requiring House districts to remain small,
was also passed by Congress in 1789,
but still awaits ratification by the states.
What would it do?
That was the contest question.
The contest is over.
There was no winner.
- The answer is given below.
- but first, let's examine what Congress is today.
When the Constitution was ratified,
when the population of the country was a few million,
the Congress had under 100 members and not more than
a couple hundred employees.
Today, the country is much bigger,
the population is a few hundred million,
and the Congress has grown, too:
So what's the problem?
- Congress now consists of over 25,000 people.
- These 25,000 people wield the awesome powers of the Congress,
not only to legislate,
but also to investigate, to manipulate agencies,
to negotiate between factions
(& on international "junkets"), &c
- The Congress has huge office buildings,
and spends a couple of Billion $
just on itself.
The country is hundreds of times bigger,
and so is the Congress.
The problem is that most of those 25,000 people,
who wield all this enormous power,
are NOT elected.
(And many of those unelected staffers actually have
more power than the newly-elected members!)
Meanwhile, the districts have grown so huge,
that they are actually larger in population
than most of the states once were.
The power of Congress has grown,
but so has the concentration of power.
So has the patronage.
And so has the power of the party establishments,
because the districts are so large that only a party
can afford the campaign costs.
And the two big parties make deals with each other,
to cut costs and to increase their power:
Unbelievable as it seems,
How can anybody use the word "representative"
to refer to such an institution?
An how can it be called a "democratic" system,
when only 1-2% of the 25,000 people who run the Congress
(and wield its enormous power)
- in most of the campaigns for the House
(In these enormous districts)
there is no significant opposition
(and many members run completely unopposed).
- More often than not,
election to Congress becomes a lifetime sinecure.
are directly elected by the people?
The rest are appointed.
Many of them are enormously powerful,
and they are answerable
only to the party establichment
to the person elected in the huge district back home
(even tho many of them really live in the DC area).
But what does the Bill of Rights say about this?
The BoR, as passed by Congress in 1791,
included a remedy -- an Amdt that can still be ratified,
which said that:
(Contest... exact # -- look it up!)
- CDs wud initially start out with 30,000 residents,
- then, as the # of Reps in the House grew,
the sizes of the disticts wud be gradually increased,
- up to a maximum of a couple of times larger than that.
That would make a CD about the size of one of the districts
now being set up for the Brookhaven Town Council.
That would also make about 1/4 of the people in Congress
elected, rather than appointed!
(assuming ~25K) (or slightly larger if the new members
are additions instead of replacements).
It would NOT mean that the Congress would have to become any larger!
With smaller districts,
there is no need to have as many staff memebrs.
There is no need for each Rep to have a huge suite of offices,
with sep receptionists and secretaries.
And there is no reason why much of the decision making,
the law writing,
now done by unelected appiontees
couldn't be taken over by people ELECTED directly by the people.
Not qualified, you say?
Well, how about electing QUALIFIED people,
and letting THEM run the Congress?!