John Feehery: Speaking Engagements


Expanding the Size of the Senate?

Posted on July 23, 2014
Seal of the United States House of Representatives.svg

"Seal of the United States House of Representatives" by Ipankonin - Vectorized from w:Image:House large seal.png SVG elements from . Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

There’s nothing sacred about having 100 Senators and 435 Members of the House of Representatives.

It was 103 years ago, in August of 1911, when Congress passed the Apportionment Act, which set the number of House Members at the current number.  When Alaska and Hawaii entered the union in 1959, that number was allowed to float to 437, but under that law, it sank back to 435 in 1962.

In 1911, neither Arizona nor New Mexico were States, and so the Senate only had 92 Members.   It is hard to say whether the Senate functioned better or worse with 8 fewer Senators but at any event, the upper chamber was a far different place than it is today.

I mention this because there is a new proposal to break up California into several smaller states.  Here is a story from the New York Daily News describing that proposal:
Tech billionaire Tim Draper has handed over 1.3 million signatures to get voters to decide whether to split up California into six separate states.

If the signatures are verified, California voters will decide in November whether the state should be spliced into Jefferson, North California, Silicon Valley, Central California, West California and South California. Draper so far has poured $4.9 million into the state break-up effort, Six Californias.

This wouldn’t necessarily expand the size of the House of Representatives, but it would give the Senate twelve new Members.

This isn’t the only proposal out there to break up current states into smaller ones.

Some folks in rural Colorado actually put the question on a ballot in 2013 to secede from the more populated parts of the state.  Western Marylanders want to secede from the more populous parts of central Maryland, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the folks who lived on the Eastern Shore would be more than happy to break from Baltimore, PG and Montgomery Counties.

Voters want to feel like they are in more control of their own destinies.  All too often, they feel lost, having no ability to control the broader economic forces that shape their lives.  They also feel disconnected from the political class, unable or unwilling to play the fundraising game and uncertain that their votes will make a real difference.

Many of them take to Twitter to announce their displeasure, and still others see that the current political geography needs reshuffling.  They want more representation for their views, especially at the federal level.

I don’t know if these efforts to change the size of the Senate will be successful.  But I would note that the British House of Commons has 650 Members, far more than the US for a far smaller country.

More representation is never a bad thing.