Washington Post reporter Alec MacGillis doesn’t like the power wielded by U.S. Senators from states with small populations. He writes:
The Senate Finance Committee’s “Gang of Six” that is drafting health-care legislation that may shape the final deal — without a public insurance option — represents six states that are among the least populous in the country: Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, Maine, New Mexico and Iowa.
Between them, those six states hold 8.4 million people — less than New Jersey — and represent 3 percent of the U.S. population. North Dakota and Wyoming each have fewer than 80,000 uninsured people, in a country where about 47 million lack insurance. In the House, those six states have 13 seats out of 435, 3 percent of the whole. In the Senate, those six members are crafting what may well be the blueprint for reform.
Climate change legislation, which passed in the House, also faces daunting odds. Why? Because agriculture, coal and oil interests hold far more sway in the Senate. In the House, the big coal state of Wyoming has a single vote to New York’s 29 and California’s 53. In the Senate, each state has two. The two Dakotas (total population: 1.4 million) together have twice as much say in the Senate as does Florida (18.3 million) or Texas (24.3 million) or Illinois (12.9 million).
Was this really what the founders had in mind? One popular story tells of Thomas Jefferson asking George Washington what the Senate’s purpose is. “Why did you pour that coffee into your saucer?” Washington asked in return. “To cool it,” Jefferson replied. To which Washington said, “Even so, we pour legislation in the senatorial saucer to cool it.” A nice tale. But what if the coffee gets so cold that no one bothers to drink it? Or if the Senate takes its coffee black in a country that opted overwhelmingly for sugar and cream?
Kent Conrad, Democrat from North Dakota (pop. 641,481, third smallest), chairman of the Budget Committee and one of the Gang of Six, does not see any problem. Asked whether it is appropriate that his vote counts as much as those of senators from states 20 times as large, he was flummoxed. “One would hope that people would support the Constitution of the United States,” said Conrad, who was reelected with 150,000 votes in 2006, when Virginia’s Jim Webb needed 1.2 million votes to win. “This was the grand bargain that was struck when the Founding Fathers determined the structure and form of the United States Congress.” He added: “Are you proposing changing the Constitution?”
Well, maybe. Regardless, there’s nothing wrong with taking a closer look at how things came to be the way they are. The fact remains that, hallowed as it is, the Senate is as much a product of bare-knuckled, self-interested politics as last week’s fight over military earmarks.
This is so damn simple to refute that my head hurts (probably due to banging it on my keyboard after reading this garbage). Apparently, neither MacGillis nor his trusty fact-checking editors bothered to read Article V of the U.S. Constitution, which sets forth the rules for changing that Constitution:
The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress; Provided that no Amendment which may be made prior to the Year One thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any Manner affect the first and fourth Clauses in the Ninth Section of the first Article; and that no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate.
Mr. MacGillis, your entire essay was an exercise in futility. To answer your question, yes, the Founding Fathers did actually construct the Constitution with ironclad protection for each State’s equal representation in the Senate, even if every other State wants to strip it away through the amendment process.
This ain’t rocket science.
Hat tip: This Ain’t Hell