Old Becomes New Again   Leave a comment

 

So, what do we do to make Congress more accountable to the People. It’s a hard answer. The solution is to substantially increase the number of congressional districts in accordance with the original vision of the Framers. In 1789, the House required that there be at least one Representative for every 50,000 people, which would, given our current population of 300 million people, require about 6000 congressional districts.

Wow, that’s a lot of politicians!

Or not! A politician is concerned with winning favor or retaining power rather than maintaining principles. As congressional districts became larger, candidates who were better politicians were favored. As districts become smaller, citizens are more able to perceive the character of the candidates and demand they articulate unambiguous positions and REPRESENT the people who elected them. A larger House could give the diversity of American views and values their full expression through their Representatives. The House would return to being a people’s House, likely to reflect some of your views.

My own concern with this proposed amendment was that more Representatives might mean a bigger government. Of course, there is a difference between governance – the management of government at the legislative and budgetary levels by elected representatives – and government – the bureaucracy created and funded for the purpose of implementing the legislation established by our representatives. It’s possible that increasing the number of representatives in the federal House will reduce the overall size and cost of government because we the people will be more able to influence our representatives. However, there might need to be some discussion about staff size and time spent in Washington as well as Representative salaries. Theoretically, a Representative dealing with the concerns of 50,000 constituents would need far fewer staff than one dealing with 700,000 constituents.

Six thousand Representatives seems an overwhelming number that could not get anything done, but I would note that the 100 Senators couldn’t pass a budget for five years while the House with 465 passed one every year. Virtually all work accomplished in Congress takes place in various subcommittees now anyway. That would still be the case.

Furthermore, it should no longer be necessary, or even advantageous, to require all Representatives convene in one location at one time. We live in the Internet Age. Video conferencing could geographically decentralize the House of Representatives, putting your Representative in an office near you for most of the year – and less accessible to lobbyists. What’s not to like about that?

Congress is not likely to voluntarily increase the number of Representatives beyond a token few because the current super-sized districts give them too much power. Therefore, a Constitutional amendment is the only way to ensure a proportionally equitable representation in the House.

In 1789, the Founding generation almost included such a provision in the Constitution, btw. This is the “first” first amendment to the Bill of Rights.

Posted March 25, 2014 by aurorawatcherak in Constitutional Rights

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