Your House of Representatives

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Your House of Representatives

Postby TheTrucker » Fri Mar 26, 2010 11:41 pm

Most people don't even know how many seats there are in the House. Most people graduating high school do not know how their government is constructed and how it was intended to function. Many believe that the president is the emperor who dictates the laws and the federal budgets. And many of these are college graduates. But I want to focus on the House of representatives in this particular presentation.

The House is divided into a legislative branch and a representative branch. The legislative branch is composed of the committees of the House. And the committees do the legislating. There are about 200 committee members. The entire membership forms the representative branch that will vote on the legislation created by the legislative branch. This concept is important when we talk about expanding the membership of the House so as to create better representation. We are _NOT_ expanding the legislative branch of the House, only the representative branch.

The legislative branch of the House of Representatives is appointed by the caucus of the two parties where the majority party is privileged to appoint more legislators then the minority party and the chairs of the committees and the speaker are members of the majority party. The members of the legislative branch are not elected by the people. They are elected by the representatives of the people. This is much like the members of the Senate were, prior to the 17th amendment, indirectly elected by the state legislatures.

People DO NOT UNDERSTAND THIS. They think that increasing the House membership would result in increasing the number of legislators.

I am of the opinion that this is the PRIMARY stumbling block to increasing the membership of the House.
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Re: Your House of Representatives

Postby JEQuidam » Sat Mar 27, 2010 8:53 am

Mike, you're correct that most people, even otherwise well informed people, don't know there are only 435 members of the federal House. If they do know, ask them why it is 435 instead of any other number. Few have any idea why! Some will even suggest that’s the number required by the Constitution.

Our fellow citizens will not understand our pernicious deficiency of representation until they are aware that this situation exists.

Next, people need to understand the relationship between the amount of representation and the quality of representation. This is not a concept that is in most people consciousnesses. What if we had 60 Representatives? What if we had 600? What if we had 6,000? How differently would we be governed under those scenarios? Or would it make absolutely no difference at all? This should be the subject of a national debate!

In addition, most people don't know what "one person one vote" means -- they don't realize it means that the electoral districts are supposed to be equal-sized, and that we're in egregious violation of that constitutional principle on a nationwide basis. This is explained in section 9 of Taking Back Our Republic, and is also the subject of the Apportionment.us lawsuit.

Part of our job is to explain these fundamental concepts to our fellow citizens so that they can begin to understand the need for representational enlargement.

I understand the distinction you are trying to make between representatives and legislators: you are calling those representatives who serve on committees "legislators". (That terminology will confuse many because the "legislative branch" is commonly understood to be the Congress.) I prefer to call all of them "Representatives" and I avoid using the term "legislators". We certainly need more representatives, not more legislators!
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Re: Your House of Representatives

Postby TheTrucker » Sat Mar 27, 2010 1:22 pm

JEQuidam wrote:Part of our job is to explain these fundamental concepts to our fellow citizens so that they can begin to understand the need for representational enlargement.

I understand the distinction you are trying to make between representatives and legislators: you are calling those representatives who serve on committees "legislators". (That terminology will confuse many because the "legislative branch" is commonly understood to be the Congress.) I prefer to call all of them "Representatives" and I avoid using the term "legislators". We certainly need more representatives, not more legislators!


You are making a very grave mistake in your purposeful disregard for the distinction between legislators and representatives. When I suggest the expansion of the representation a common reaction that I see form most otherwise aware individuals is one of "what a circus that would be". These individuals are aware of the "houses of congress" but do not understand how the House currently functions. And once it is understood that there is a true difference between legislators and representatives then this reaction abates. The idea that representatives can do a better job of selecting and controlling legislators in the House than can the general populous is the same sort of rationale that was employed in the selection of state senators by the state legislatures.Direct democracy is not a good system in any event. And the 17th amendment was the most egregious act of "progressive" foot shooting in history.

http://www.greatervoice.org/econ/quotes ... anings.php
The following is an excerpt from "Original Meanings - Politics and Ideas in the Making of the Constitution", a Pulitzer Prize winning historical account authored by Jack N. Rakove - pg 205:

"Was representation simply a device to replace the impracticable meeting of the people at large, in which case representatives should resemble their constituents as closely as possible? Or should representatives possess an independence of mind and a breadth of experience or knowledge that would provide a capacity for deliberation that ordinary citizens lacked? Did the "sympathy" desired of lawmakers require reinforcing the ties that bound them to the voters; or could it be attained, in adequate measure, through some act of imagination? The answers to these questions in turn reflected divergent definitions of the essential duties of representative institutions. Did they exist primarily to protect the people at large against arbitrary power by preventing government from acting without the expression of popular consent? Or did they not provide as well a mechanism whereby the people could authorize government to make law in the positive sense, actively adopting policies that contribute to the prosperity of the society and the happiness of its citizens?"

Again quoting from Jack N. Rakove's "Original Meanings":

"At the Convention, the framers struggled to move beyond their preoccupation with the mechanics of representation -- especially the dilemma of apportionment in both houses -- to secure the qualitative improvement in the character of deliberation and legislation they desired. Once the Constitution was published, however, Federalists were hard pressed to defend this conception of representation against more traditional norms to which Anti-Fedralists clung when they worried that a small and elite Congress would lack the sympathy and local knowledge needed to protect the people at large against the abuse of power."

It is tempting to make too much out of the current "tea party" phenomenon. On the one hand we can understand the frustration of some of the people with a government out of control. But on the other side of this argument we find that too much democracy is not such a good thing:

http://www.greatervoice.org/econ/quotes ... aradox.php
Progress and Poverty --- Henry George

"To turn a republican government into a despotism the basest and most brutal, it is not necessary formally to change its constitution or abandon popular elections ....

.... forms are nothing when substance has gone, and the forms of popular government are those from which the substance of freedom may most easily go. Extremes meet, and a government of universal suffrage and theoretical equality may, under conditions which impel the change, most readily become a despotism. For there despotism advances in the name and with the might of the people. The single source of power once secured, everything is secured. ....

And when the disparity of condition increases, so does universal suffrage make it easy to seize the source of power, for the greater is the proportion of power in the hands of those who feel no direct interest in the conduct of government; who, tortured by want and embittered by poverty, are ready to sell their votes to the highest bidder or follow the lead of the most blatant demagogue; or who, made bitter by hardships, may even look upon profligate and tyrannous government with the satisfaction we may imagine the proletarians and slaves of Rome to have felt, as they saw a Caligula or Nero raging among the rich patricians ....

Where there is anything like an equal distribution of wealth - that is to say, where there is general patriotism, virtue, and intelligence - the more democratic the government the better it will be; but where there is gross inequality in the distribution of wealth, the more democratic the government the worse it will be; for, while rotten democracy may not in itself be worse than rotten autocracy, its effects upon national character will be worse ....

.... but in a corrupt democracy the tendency is always to give power to the worst. Honesty and patriotism are weighted, and unscrupulousness commands success. The best gravitate to the bottom, the worst float to the top, and the vile will only be ousted by the viler. While as national character must gradually assimilate to the qualities that win power, and consequently respect, that demoralization of opinion goes on which in the long panorama of history we may see over and over again transmuting races of free men into races of slaves."
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Re: Your House of Representatives

Postby Jims65 » Tue Mar 30, 2010 6:05 pm

Wow, I’m getting quite an education reading these forums. I didn’t know that there were only 200 representatives out of 435 representatives who served on committees. I assumed every representative in Congress served on at least one committee or sub-committee. This post comes many months after your original post and comments but I’m hoping can enlighten me further.

Currently, committees and particularly the chairman are extremely powerful and can have great influence on how a bill appears before the House of Representatives - if the bill is allowed to appear at all. How would having a larger house size improve this process? I’m having a tough time visualizing how the House could produce any legislation much less legislation reflective of the people.
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Re: Your House of Representatives

Postby Paul » Tue Apr 13, 2010 6:56 pm

This type of governance only works when special interests control the governing body. By eliminating or making negligible special interest influence, the rules would become much more equitable. Each branch of Congress sets its own procedures and it is highly unlikely that a majority would vote to put themselves into the minority. I also think it is unlikely that so much power would ever be granted to so few people, specifically in the cases of the Speaker and the Committee Chairs.
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Re: Your House of Representatives

Postby silverpie » Tue Nov 09, 2010 3:00 pm

TheTrucker wrote: There are about 200 committee members.


On what source do you base that claim? According to the House website, the only member of the House without at least one committee assignment is the one from Oregon 2.
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Re: Your House of Representatives

Postby HouseSizeWonk » Wed Nov 10, 2010 11:38 am

silverpie wrote:
TheTrucker wrote: There are about 200 committee members.


On what source do you base that claim? According to the House website, the only member of the House without at least one committee assignment is the one from Oregon 2.


Even OR-2 has a committee assignment (Energy and Commerce), but he is on leave because he was tabbed to chair the "Majority Transition Committee."

I really have no idea where Trucker got this notion that only a subset of members sit on committees. The arrangement has been forever that everybody gets at least one committee assignment. If they add more members, I guarantee you that they will create more committees (and, consequently, narrow the subject matter jurisdiction of each of them).

Here's a source for the notion that everybody sits on a committee:
http://clerk.house.gov/committee_info/oal.html
Last edited by HouseSizeWonk on Wed Nov 10, 2010 11:47 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Your House of Representatives

Postby HouseSizeWonk » Wed Nov 10, 2010 11:44 am

Paul wrote:I also think it is unlikely that so much power would ever be granted to so few people, specifically in the cases of the Speaker and the Committee Chairs.


This sort of power already belongs to the Speaker and the Committee Chairs. Not only is it wrong to say it's unlikely, it has already happened.
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Re: Your House of Representatives

Postby Paul » Sat Nov 20, 2010 10:12 pm

HouseSizeWonk wrote:
Paul wrote:I also think it is unlikely that so much power would ever be granted to so few people, specifically in the cases of the Speaker and the Committee Chairs.


This sort of power already belongs to the Speaker and the Committee Chairs. Not only is it wrong to say it's unlikely, it has already happened.


I was speculating about if special interest influence were eliminated, and that has not already happened.
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Re: Your House of Representatives

Postby dsoeg » Tue Jun 14, 2016 4:19 pm

I am not sure where you get your facts, such as: The House is divided into a legislative branch and a representative branch. The legislative branch is composed of the committees of the House. And the committees do the legislating. There are about 200 committee members.

If the legislative branch of 200 members is accurate, then that is a factor of an internal House organization. It is not dictated by the Constitution, and it represents internal House rules that can be changed by the House membership.

I would suggest that much of the House (and Senate) rules should be scrapped and we start afresh.
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Re: Your House of Representatives

Postby Wilmott » Tue Jan 03, 2017 3:44 am

Jims65 wrote:Wow, I’m getting quite an education reading these forums. I didn’t know that there were only 200 representatives out of 435 representatives who served on committees. I assumed every representative in Congress served on at least one committee or sub-committee. This post comes many months after your original post and comments but I’m hoping can enlighten me further.


Same here Jim. I'm learning lots.
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Re: Your House of Representatives

Postby JDChambers » Mon Feb 13, 2017 5:58 pm

I wrote a blog -- ON THIS VERY SUBJECT -- and a reader pointed me to you.

Delighted to make your acquaintance! :)

Reducing district size is necessary to "drain the swamp", see
https://www.learntheconstitution.com/blogs/news/3-must-do-actions-to-drain-the-swamp-and-keep-it-drained

Our problem is marketing. Find something that resonates, like "drain the swamp", and show that increasing representation is the solution.

I've been talking about this for years ... part of my video series on the Constitution
http://whoownsyoujoco.com/videos.php

Wonderful to find I'm not alone! :D
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