Former Michigan Congressman Calls for End to Senate

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Former Michigan Congressman Calls for End to Senate

John Dingell represented Michigan in the U.S. House of Representatives for 59 years. Now he is calling for an end to the U.S. Senate.


In an op-ed published by the Atlantic, Rep. Dingell writes that the Senate enshrines minority rule:


California has almost 40 million people, while the 20 smallest states have a combined population totaling less than that. Yet because of an 18th-century political deal, those 20 states have 40 senators, while California has just two. These sparsely populated, usually conservative states can block legislation supported by a majority of the American people. That’s just plain crazy.


He proposes abolishing the Senate, or combining it in some way with the House of Representatives. This, he says, will be a way to stop ideas that are supported by a majority of Americans from being killed in the Senate.


Opponents of this idea note that the framers of the Constitution never intended the U.S. to be ruled strictly by a legislative majority. They point out that the Senate was designed specifically to be anti-majoritarian, leading to a check-and-balance on both the House of Representatives and the presidency.


This idea has been floated by other observers, who are frustrated that the Senate membership is comprised of two senators from every state. Population plays no part in determining the number of U.S. senators, something that gives more power to less-populated states in that chamber. The Founding Fathers designed the Senate to be a representative of state interests. Initially senators were chosen by state legislatures, but this was changed by constitutional amendment in the Progressive Era.


Article V of the Constitution states that “no state, without its consent, shall be deprived of its equal suffrage in the Senate.” This would seem to preclude any changes made to the current makeup of the Senate without every state agreeing.


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