Of course, any focus on the institutional differences between the chambers1 has to acknowledge that these were not actually the same bills. And that there was more information from the stock market about just how some folks felt about the defeat in the House.
Nonetheless, what is striking about the inter-cameral comparison is that in the House, the most vulnerable members regardless of party2 were much more likely to vote against the bill.
Overall, in the House, of course, Democrats were much more likely to vote for the bill than were Republicans (though neither party put on an impressive display of unity).
The upshot is that the House “vulnerables” tended to vote less with the party that has the greatest wind at its back as we head into the election.3 In the Senate it was the reverse, albeit less significantly so.
Essentially, Senators in both parties and regardless of vulnerability were more likely to vote for the bill (which passed 74â€“25). The institutional explanation would point to Senators’ more diverse constituencies making them more insulated from apparent public opposition (even a month before an election!). Yet the tendency of vulnerable Representatives to vote against the majority position of the party riding higher in the polls remains puzzling (to me; maybe readers have a hypothesis, “institutional” or otherwise).
The House of Representatives has passed the United States-Peru Trade Promotion Agreement. This deal was signed in April, 2006, but it is the first trade agreement to come before Congress since the change in party control in the November, 2006, US midterm elections.
Given the centrality of trade to the outcome of those elections–particularly in many swing districts–it is hardly surprising that the vote split the majority party. The vote was 285-132, with 176 Republicans and only 109 Democrats in favor. In other words, over half (53.2%) of Democrats opposed the bill (as did about one in eight Republicans).
After the change of party control, both the US and Peruvian governments agreed to modify the deal to include labor and environmental standards in order to ensure passage. It worked, even if the final vote revealed the Democrats’ continuing deep divisions on trade.
The bill still has to pass the US Senate, but that is presumably a foregone conclusion.
The pact was originally ratified by the Peruvian congress easily (79-14, with 7 abstentions) in late June, 2006. (Thanks to a Wikipedia editor for the reference.) I wonder if the Peruvian congress had to re-authorize it after the additional standards were negotiated, or if under Peruvian law such changes are within executive prerogative. (Boz answers this question in the comments: Yes, Peru’s congress did reauthorize the revised agreement. Thanks, boz!)
In October, 2005, I commented on the intercameral differences within the Republican Congress on the question of federal grants for “homeland security.” The dispute–with the Senate favoring most of the money being divided equally among the states and the House favoring a high percentage of the disbursements being based on insured risk–is the stuff of classic bicameral policy disagreement. Insured risk tends to be roughly correlated with population, and so it is hardly a surprise that the House would prefer such a determination of where most of the money should go. The Senate, on the other hand, with its equal representation of even the smallest state, would be predicted to find the “risk” from terrorism to be about the same in Wyoming as it is in New York, and indeed that is the logic–the political logic–of its formula.
Now, fast forward to 2007. We had a change in party control, from both houses being Republican to both being Democratic. And at the moment, the chambers are once again bargaining over the formula for the distribution of homeland security grants. The proposals by each chamber again reveal the institutional biases of each chamber. But when compared to the 2005 intercameral bargaining, the 2007 proposals show even more starkly the difference between the parties and their constituencies, on this issue.
Here I compare the House and Senate proposals at each of these moments of bargaining:
2005 bills (Republican majorities)
House: 25% of funds distributed equally among states–but state must show need; most of rest allocated based on risk
Senate: 75% of funds distributed equally among states; 25% allocated according to risk
2007 bills (Democratic majorities)
House: 12.5% of funds distributed equally among states; most of rest allocated based on risk
Senate: 22.5% of funds distributed equally among states; most of rest according to risk
Wow. Good stuff!
Of course, one critical factor here is the relative sizes of the states each party draws its main support base from. That is, the parties’ positions (holding constant the chamber) are partly shaped by the same factor that separates the chambers (holding constant the parties). Consider the following breakdown of the populations of the states represented in each of these two Senates. The first column is the number of states (with half a state in each party row whenever the state delegation is split), and then the cumulative population of those states (or half states).
Note that the Republican states constituted the minority of the population even when the Republicans held the (spurious) partisan majority of the Senate. (This a theme I have covered before, in a somewhat more refined analysis with electoral data and cool graphs!)
President Bush has threatened to veto this bill over several other provisions, especially that which would extend collective bargaining rights to baggage screeners and other employees who were barred such rights when DHS was established.
We may see the first successful override vote in the House during the W years. The bill passed 299-128. However, the vote was 60-38 in the Senate. These results means a lot of Republicans in each house went with the majority, even if the non-democratic chamber will be able to sustain the minority veto in this case. What a difference it makes which party is setting the congressional agenda!
In calculating state populations by party delegation, independents are counted as if members of the party with which they caucus (here, all Democrat: Jeffords, Sanders, Lieberman); population numbers are based on 2000 census.
On the specific issue of union rights for baggage screeners, I highly recommend the thread sparked by Matthew Yglesias in early March. The discussion in the comments contains pretty much the whole gamut of hypotheses about policy-making!
Ohio was one of the keys to the Democrats’ taking the US House majority in 2006, right? Certainly, but not to the degree it could have been.
A solid majority (53%) of Ohio voters voted for Democratic House candidates in November, 2006, yet the single-seat district plurality electoral system produced a reversal of the outcome: Republicans won 61% (11 of 18) of the seats in the state’s delegation.
Similar reversals also occurred in Michigan and Iowa in 2006; the latter case went against a Republican voting majority in the state. That a reversal of the electorate’s choice happened in Iowa is a reminder that gerrymandering is not a necessary factor in these reversals: Iowa has a nonpartisan redistricting process, allegedly doing things “the right way.” Plurality reversals are an inherent tendency of single-seat district, plurality electoral systems.
One of the embarrassments–or at least it should be an embarrassment–of the US political system is the absence of any voting representation in federal affairs for residents of the capital territory, the District of Columbia. That may be about to change, incrementally. No, DC is not about to become a state or state-equivalent, with full Senate as well as House representation, as it should. However, DC may soon get a voting Representative in the House.
In classic American style, however, this (partial) breakthrough for citizenship and democracy will not come about because it is such an obviously right thing to do, but through a partisan logroll. It seems that Utah politicos are upset that it just missed out on an additional House seat after the 2000 census.* So, how about this solution: DC gets its seat (sure to be held more or less in perpetuity by a Black Caucus Democrat) and Utah gets one, too (sure to be held more or less in perpetuity by a white Republican).
Utah’s grievance comes with a religious special-status plea, to boot! The Guardian: “Utah insists that the 2000 census undercounted the state’s population because so many of the state’s young Mormon men were out of state or out of the country doing missionary work.” I wonder how many other states might have experienced undercounts because residents–less identifiable as a bloc than Utah Mormons–were abroad.
Of course, there is a better and simpler way to deal with situations akin to Utah’s without special claims. Even the alleged undercount showed Utah had grown, and other states grew yet lost seats that they already had to faster-growing states. The solution is to let the House grow as the population grows. Then House representation would be less an interstate (and interpartisan) source of conflict than it is under the fixed size, which has been at 435 since 1912, when the USA had one-third the population it has now!* Well, at least Utah’s grievance may lead to the right outcome for DC–or, rather, half the right outcome.
Now, what about representation in the Senate? There is no objective argument for denying residents of the capital territory representation in either house of the national legislature. Several federal systems have special territories for their capitals, which thus give them fewer sovereign rights as units of the federation than the states have. However, no other federation deprives its capital residents of representation in both houses of the federal legislature. In most cases, the capital territory is represented as if it were a state.*
That would require statehood (which requires only ordinary legislation) or a constitutional amendment to grant a non-state territory entitlement to representation in the Senate. Apparently, there is some question as to whether Congress can grant DC a voting House member through ordinary legislation. As the Guardian notes:
The Constitution says that the House shall be composed of members chosen by “the people of the several states.” But it also gives Congress the power “to exercise exclusive legislation” over the seat of the federal government, interpreted by some to mean that Congress can, if it wants, give D.C. voting rights.
Whatever the situation with respect to the constitutional question, it is unconscionable to treat DC residents as second-class citizens just because they happen to live near federal government buildings. Can anyone seriously argue that this situation would still be tolerated today if the District had a different racial composition to its population? It is a national shame. The partisan logroll that may remedy its lack of House vote is a step forward (in outcome, of not process). But it is only one step. (And see the bolded parts of the “other blog action” below for some reasons to doubt that even this is a step forward.)
*1. Other than temporary increases when Hawaii and Alaska entered the union in 1959. The House reverted to 435 after the 1960 census, meaning other states lost members as of 1962 to ensure seats for the new states.
*2. A partial exception is Australia, where the capital territory (ACT) has two senators, whereas each state has twelve. Two senators put ACT on par with the Northern Territory. In the USA–also nearly unique among federations–territories (e.g. Puerto Rico and Guam) also do not have congressional representation (aside from nonvoting “delegates” in the House, as DC likewise has). [Thanks to Alan for correcting an error in the original version of this note; see his comment for further detail.]
Other blog action on this topic:
(Surprisingly little action in the blogosphere on this so far, actually.)
Current DC nonvoting delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, at The Hill Blog, calls this bill “An easy test for Democrats.”
Undernews disagrees with Norton and claims the bill is a “trick to increase GOP power.” Alluding to the constitutional argument, it says, “if Congress approves this measure, Utah will have a new seat while DC’s status will be headed for a long wrangle in the court. Result: one more GOP vote in the House as least until the case is decided. Plus Utah gains one more GOP electoral vote out of the deal.” (My emphasis; also note that DC’s electoral votes are not affected, as it has had three electors since the ratification of the Twenty-Third Amendment to the US Constitution in 1961.)
Rusty at why.i.hate.dc is not too pleased with the logroll aspect of the compromise, either: “Let me explain to Rep. Davis [R-Va., and co-sponsor] and Del. Norton how representative democracy works. The people elect representative to vote on their behalf. It’s not meant to preserve political balance. If an area that’s 90% Democrat is having their human rights trampled on, giving Republicans an extra vote to offset that new vote is not an appropriate solution. Someone explain to me the purpose of having a DC vote when Republicans in Utah get a new vote of their own. Everything cancels out. DC residents are no better off.” (Posted in December when a previous effort to pass this legislation failed; again, my emphasis.)
The Houston Chronicle, on January 21, ran an editorial that suggested increasing the size of the US House as an alternative to the proposal by a Michigan congress member to exclude non-citizens (whether legal resident or not) from the apportionment of House seats. And, yes, I am cited in the piece and, yes, the reporter (Cragg Hines) found me via F&V.
Meanwhile, in the last two days Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and senior Democrat Robert Byrd of W.Va. have engaged in a verbal skirmish surrounding the possibility that a filibuster by the party with the minority of seats in the body could prompt the party with manufactured majority of seats to “go nuclear” and unilaterally abolish the right of filibuster. Even though there has been no filibuster threat thus far, Frist on Sunday said “the answer is yes” when asked if the Republicans would change the rules to stop a filibuster of Samuel Alito’s confirmation. Byrd today responded on the floor of the Senate: “If he ever tries to exercise that, he’s going to see a real filibuster if I’m living and able to stand on my feet or sit in my seat. If the senator wants a fight, let him try it.”
Interesting that both of these matters would come precisely at the fifth anniversary of Bush v. Gore. These cases all tie together and provide a trifecta of one party using dubious manipulation of law and rules to solidify its grip on the levers of federal power.
In Bush v. Gore, the Supreme Court handed the presidency to America’s (and probably Florida’s) Second Choice. As my remarks on the Senate filibuster allude to, Republicans are also America’s Second Choice in Senate elections since 2000 (thus the filibuster currently prevents a minority party from acting like a majority party). And in the House, while the Republicans had the plurality (not majority) of votes in 2004, they lost votes compared to 2002, yet gained seats. The net gain is accounted for by the DeLay’s blatant and extraordinary mid-decade partisan gerrymander. (About halfway through an LA Times article there is a good quick summary of that redistricting.)
How will the Court rule on the Delaymander case? The case is similar to one in Pennsylvania in which a 5-4 ruling rejected the notion that an excessively partisan redistricting plan violated equal protection. (The first-linked story, from Bloomberg, has an overview.) Justice Kennedy sided with the majority in that case. Rick Hasen, quoted in both the Bloomberg and Times stories, suggests “One possibility is that Justice Kennedy has come to a firmer conclusion as to how to deal with these cases.”
As for Samuel Alito–who will be on the Court by then if either there is no filibuster or the Republicans nuke it–we know he does not object to legislative malapportionment. Is it a stretch to think he considers partisan gerrymandering to be just fine, too?
I think we know how this is going to turn out.
[UPDATE: Scott Lemieux, at LGM has his usual perceptive analysis, asking whether: (1) The Delaymander is so ourtageous that it will be the case that prompts Kennedy to develop, with the 4 dissenters in the Pennsylvania case, a standard for unconstitutional partisan gerrymanders; or (2) Kennedy is ready to go with Scalia and argue that all partisan gerrymander cases are non-justiciable. Althouse believes the latter: "Perhaps it will use this occasion, however, to set a clear standard for bowing out of these controversies altogether."]
[Scott also notes that Alito's vote, which we can assume, as I did above, to be that the gerrymander is constitutionally permissible, will not affect the balance in the case, given that he replaces O'Connor, who voted with the majority in the Pennsylvania case.]
In comments to one of The Core posts here at F&V, Lewis Batson of Make My Vote Count brings up an excellent idea for a rule to determine the size of the US House of Representatives. Under the “Wyoming Rule,” the standard Representative-to-population ratio would be that of the smallest entitled unit–i.e. currently Wyoming.
The House is currently only slightly malapportioned, but it will get more so over time unless the House size is increased, because of the continuing widening disparity between the smallest states (like Wyoming) and the big ones (like my California).
Lewis notes that currently the Wyoming Rule would result in a House of 569 seats (still a bit small by the cube-root standard noted in my previous Core post, but much closer). California would have 69 seats instead of 53.
This plan should be part of the Democrats’ agenda for the 2006 elections and beyond. It will never get on the Republicans’ agenda, that is for sure. But if Democrats fought for this, it would be a difficult issue for Republicans to oppose (even though they would trot out all sorts of diversionary tactics like “Democrats want more politicians”). Unlike Senate reform (which I know is a long uphill slog, though that will not keep me quiet on it), expanding the House is essential to making it do what everyone understands from High School civics class is its core Constitutional role: Represent the population.
Naturally, if I could have my electoral dreams fulfilled, I would go to MMP at the same time as the House is increased. But I would settle for just a simple uptick in the number of members of the House to the mid-500s (with a mechanism for small upward adjustments after each census), and, of course, a 50-state process of fair redistricting. (And representation–in both chambers–for citizens of the capital territory.)
Representation without gerrymandering or malapportionment! Dare to dream.
After each census, the number of seats in the US House that each state is entitled to must be recalculated. Rick Hasen’s Election Law Blog contains a pointer to an opinion piece in the Grand Rapids (Michigan) Press that suggests a change in the way this process is done.
U.S. Rep. Candice Miller, R-Macomb County, has proposed a fairer and more sensible system for deciding the number of Congress members from each state. [...] Ms. Miller’s proposed amendment would change the word “persons” in the 14th Amendment to “citizens.”
The article goes on to say that this would grant Michigan one more seat than it currently has and California six (!) fewer.
Counting only citizens for the sake of determining how many people to have in Congress seems like common sense. Only citizens can vote and enjoy the full rights and privileges the country has to offer.
Well, yes, only citizens vote; however non-citizens pay taxes and receive government services–two reasons that would seem to make them relevant to calculating how much weight a state ought to have in the House of Representatives.
However, there is an alternative solution, and it does not force us to get into a divisive debate about citizenship and representation. It is so simple that it is rather amazing to me that it is rarely discussed:
INCREASE THE SIZE OF THE HOUSE.
It really makes little sense that a state should gain population (citizen or non-citizen) yet lose House seats, as Michigan and other states did after the 2000 census.
We are one of the few democracies in the world that does not periodically adjust the size of its lower (or sole) house. There is nothing set in stone about 435. It is just in federal law. In fact, we used to increase the size of the House periodically as population increased. We could do so again. Look at this graph:
(This is for a forthcoming book on American democracy in comparative perspective; all rights reserved, of course.)
You can see two things here:
1. The US used to keep its House size just below the cube-root of its population (as Rein Taagepera’s model predicts), but has not done so since its population was under 100 million (in 1912!).
2. The US House is one the smallest in the world among established democracies with over around 60 million residents (citizen or otherwise).
So, why not make the House even a little bit bigger? We don’t have to go all the way up to 600 or so (which would still leave us below the cube root) all at once. We could just make long-term adjustments with each subsequent census (say 480 next time, then 500, and so on), thereby not depriving Michigan and other states of existing congressional districts.
If by my laws you walk, and my commands you keep, and observe them,
then I will give-forth your rains in their set-time,
so that the earth gives-forth its yield
and the trees of the field give-forth their fruit.
--Vayikra 26: 3-4