Increase the number of Representatives in the House

Govi

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This proposal in the Washington Post does not go far enough. Congress already has the power to increase the membership of the House, but just a few hundred seats is not enough. To approach our founders goals of 30,000 persons per House member, we'd need to move to 10,000 or so. But perhaps we don't need to go so far, maybe 2,190 (five times the present number) would be sufficient.

It would certainly fix our recent problems with the Electoral College. For example, based on the 2010 Census, California has 55 Electors and Montana has 3. Expanding the House membership five fold would change that to 267 Electors for California and 7 for Montana. Note: Electors for each state are equal to its Congressional representation.

Such an expansion would reduce to a very low probability having a disagreement between the popular vote and the Electoral College such as those we experienced in 2000 and 2016. Just by fixing this one important component of our representative democracy, we fix a multitude of problems.

And we get to build a new larger House, which I hope will be in the same style as the present Capitol Building. A new millennium, a new House, a better democracy, and a vastly improved America.
 

Bartholomew Gallacher

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It's a nice idea, but I won't see this happen in a long time your parties and people in charge will not voluntarily give up their hold on power they do have right now.

Aside that 2190 members? The Republic of India, which has around 1.4 billion people and is the world's biggest democracy by a far shot, has two chambers modeled after the UK and 245 and 545 members at the moment. The only way to manage a "parliament" as big is like the National People's Congress in China, which has 2980 members and all members always do agree to everything, which is a fake parliament show and nothing more.

A parliament with 2190 members is just unmanageable. And the best way to fix the electoral college is not to increase the parliament's size, but to eliminate it and let your people directly vote for their president instead. France is able to do this, and many other countries in the world are as well, so no reason why the USA shouldn't be able, too. Aside that another important step would be to eliminate "the winner takes it all" and introduce proportional representation on state level.
 

Veritable Quandry

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I think I brought up some numbers in a previous thread, but it's buried by now.

When the current number was set in the 1920s*, it was close to one Representative for every 250.000 citizens. That's still pretty big districts, but an average person would have a chance to interact with their rep. That would put us at 1,312 more or less depending on how they round for smaller v larger states. No state would have less than 2 at that point.

The House building really does not have to be a limit. Use it for ceremonial purposes, keep the major committees in the Capitol, and set up secure regional centers where most work could be done remotely, keeping the bulk of the House closer to their districts and not having to maintain a second home in DC year round.

That would narrow the Electoral College advantage of the smaller states and make gerrymandering more difficult as something like Ohio's 9th district (only a few miles wide at points but connecting the suburbs of Cleveland and Toledo) would have to be cut into three, or more likely the urban parts to the east and west would join districts in the cities instead of following the coastline.

It could easily be larger. The 30 to 60 thousand people per representative have been used closer to the founding of the US. That makes a good argument for "originalists" that the Founding Fathers did not create the present number of Representatives, and there was no conception that a state would ever have tens of millions of people.

*The number was used in 1911 following the 1910 census, and set into statute in 1929 after a prolonged failure to accommodate the 1920 census.
 
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Veritable Quandry

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It's a nice idea, but I won't see this happen in a long time your parties and people in charge will not voluntarily give up their hold on power they do have right now.

Aside that 2190 members? The Republic of India, which has around 1.4 billion people and is the world's biggest democracy by a far shot, has two chambers modeled after the UK and 245 and 545 members at the moment. The only way to manage a "parliament" as big is like the National People's Congress in China, which has 2980 members and all members always do agree to everything, which is a fake parliament show and nothing more.

A parliament with 2190 members is just unmanageable. And the best way to fix the electoral college is not to increase the parliament's size, but to eliminate it and let your people directly vote for their president instead. France is able to do this, and many other countries in the world are as well, so no reason why the USA shouldn't be able, too. Aside that another important step would be to eliminate "the winner takes it all" and introduce proportional representation on state level.
The change to the Electoral College is just one small problem it would solve. The extreme gerrymandering of US districts, the wealth required to gain a seat, and the uneven representation of various parts of the country would all be helped by increasing the size of the House.

As for being unmanageable, that's only because most countries are still operating on 19th century technology and organization for their legislative bodies.
 

Katheryne Helendale

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How about dumping the electoral college rather than these complicated solutions?
I'm all for dumping the EC. But the country still has a gross representation problem that can only really be best addressed by growing the House.
 

Govi

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The reason for not dumping the Electoral College is that requires that 3/4 of the States agree on an Amendment to the Constitution; a long uphill political battle. Changing the number of Representatives requires only an Act of Congress; a majority in both houses and an agreeable president. If the Democrats win the whole federal government pie, by however slim a majority, a majority is all it requires. There is about a 60% chance that the Democrats will take the whole thing.

That will be the occasion to act, to increase the number of Representatives and keep the Republican minority from again using the disproportionate and undemocratic power that they now have.
 

Eunoli

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A house that big would be impossible to hold accountable. There would be a special caucus for everything and especially as long as money is allowed in politics, nothing would get done. We'd have a Qanon coalition of several hundred members, potentially. They might not be able to pass anything, but they could turn getting work done into a living nightmare. This seems to me to be ill advised.
 

Govi

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The Founders called the House of Representatives the People's House. Each Representative was held to be accountable to her/his constituency and that accountability was to be insured by the two-year term between elections of all the House members. As the number of people represented by each member has increased, it takes more money to get elected. This has meant that a significant portion of any House members time is taken up by asking for money to be able to run (again).

It takes so much money to run now because the districts are so huge, each a whole San Francisco's worth of people, at least, and many have enormous territory, whole western states in some cases, situations which guarantee a bigger voice in the House for the rich. Making the districts way smaller should reduce the amount of money required to run for a House seat. It will certainly make it possible for Representatives to be more accountable to their respective electorates rather than beholden to rich contributors.
 

Bartholomew Gallacher

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As for being unmanageable, that's only because most countries are still operating on 19th century technology and organization for their legislative bodies.
Wrong. Parliament originates in the French verb "parler ", which means "to talk." Fans of "Pirates of the Caribbean" might remember that word, too. The basic idea of a parliament is to discuss and then decide things. If you want to get an idea what a lively parliament debate looks like just have a look at the UK's House of Commons.

Every member of a parliament has the right to speak, if he wants to. So having a parliament full of 2000+ members would mean that debates and making laws will take much longer than in a leaner parliament because there are simply more people who might want to talk, and this has absolutely nothing to do with technology at all.

The sad reality though in many modern countries though today is that due to the sheer amount of laws which are to be made most of the work is not done in the parliament any longer, but instead in commissions which are being manned by members of the parliament. They discuss things, like economy, social politics and such, and write law drafts. The drafts are then being brought into parliament and most of the time the MP's are just voting like their whip is telling them, and most don't dare to vote different.

This in the end means that in reality the show is only run by a few people which is a contradiction for the reason why there are parliaments, and you could just as easily discard the rest, because most of the time they simply do not matter at all when they are always voting like their whip recommends. And if they do vote otherwise their party will most of the time withdraw their support for the next election and other stuff, meaning latest then most would be out.
 
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Veritable Quandry

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Wrong. The vast majority of work in Congress is done in committee. There is no actual value in floor debates aside from campaigning. It's all theater. Any member can put their statement in the Congressional Record, streamlining the actual debate. Draw lots, let everyone get some time on CSPAN for their campaign commercials, and conduct votes in secure facilities around the country. Each party would need more whips, but that's entirely manageable with the number of new members.
 

Bartholomew Gallacher

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Again you have described another reason why increasing the parliament being run without changes would bring absolutely nothing aside increased costs for the tax payers.

"Putting statements into the record" is a type of managing a parliament which contradicts the entire idea and reason for a having a parliament, because nobody cares about them. It's a farce, nothing more, nothing less. 40 law debates on one day? No problem. Finalizing important stuff with no real debate? Alright. And so on and on...
 

Veritable Quandry

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WE DON"T HAVE A FUCKING PARLIMENT. Our system is VERY DIFFERENT from any parliamentary system.

And the population per Representative is completely incompatible with a democratic government. Imagine if the combined parliaments of all European countries were 988 people. Right now, France has 577 seats. Germany has 598, The UK has 650. Italy has 630. I could go on. Our House of Representative concentrates power in the least populated parts of the country. The Senate is even worse.

This one change requires only a legislative solution, and would restore a measure of democracy to American government.
 

Innula Zenovka

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Again you have described another reason why increasing the parliament being run without changes would bring absolutely nothing aside increased costs for the tax payers.

"Putting statements into the record" is a type of managing a parliament which contradicts the entire idea and reason for a having a parliament, because nobody cares about them. It's a farce, nothing more, nothing less. 40 law debates on one day? No problem. Finalizing important stuff with no real debate? Alright. And so on and on...
Certainly in the British parliament, while the detailed work is done in committee, the debates in the main chamber do play a very important role in focussing on particular points in the principle of the bill, and offer an important mechanism whereby particular issues can be raised for more detailed consideration at the committee stages.

But I don't think US legislation works in the same way parliamentary legislation does in most places -- I mean, the strangest stuff gets tacked into bills by way of amendment that seems to have nothing to do with the apparent purpose of the bill.
 

Govi

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The Constitution gives the power to each house to establish its own rules of order. A larger House would require different rules of order, to deal with such a numerous House.

The rules-of-order difficulties inherent in increasing the number of Representatives are as nothing to the failure of the Electoral College that is embodied by the Electoral College's election of Donald J. Trump to be the President of the United States. And let us not forget the same body's election of George W. Bush and the disasters that begat.
 

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A house that big would be impossible to hold accountable. There would be a special caucus for everything and especially as long as money is allowed in politics, nothing would get done. We'd have a Qanon coalition of several hundred members, potentially. They might not be able to pass anything, but they could turn getting work done into a living nightmare. This seems to me to be ill advised.
How do you hold the House accountable now when a campaign costs on average 1.5 million dollars, and Political Action Committees do not have limits on spending?

As for slowing action, there are almost 400 bills passed by the House waiting for Senate action.
 

Eunoli

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How do you hold the House accountable now when a campaign costs on average 1.5 million dollars, and Political Action Committees do not have limits on spending?

As for slowing action, there are almost 400 bills passed by the House waiting for Senate action.
The first actions of the next administration and congress if they go blue HAVE to be starting to take actions to overturn Citizen's United and to make campaigns publicly funded. It really is the only chance we have at a functioning democracy.
 

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Congress already has the power to increase the membership of the House...maybe 2,190
That's taking things awfully close to so much mass that it could form a singularity. D.C. IS BLACKHOLE-LIKE AS IT IS, AND YOU WANT TO GO AND MAKE A REAL ONE?!?!
 

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I'd like to thank Govi for starting a thread that's not all about the latest Trump outrage news or some other catastrophe, but just a good and old-fashioned debate about engineering.
 
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Bartholomew Gallacher

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The main issues of many parliaments in modern democracies can be summed up as the following:

* they fail to represent us
* to get elected you need to spend a small fortune nowadays, so this is a huge gatekeeper,
* while in theory in many countries members of parliament are independent, in reality parties often do wield too much power, often nullifying the ability of the parliament to check the government, because the MPs most of the time vote like the ruling party demands. This undermines one of the basic principles of modern democracies, the division of powers.
* Forming of opinions in parliaments is nowadays mostly top-down, but not bottom-up.

Representation can either mean in that context

a) that in the parliament should be the mirror of the society it comes from, meaning all ethnicities, different ages, genders and jobs should have MPs in there or
b) the MPs should represent their constituency freely without too much influence of the whip.

Most parliaments are populated nowadays with old, white man who have academic degrees and for sure will not represent their society.

Adding more representatives to a parliament until you first fix these underlying issues will yield to no result, aside a big member increase of the same crowd your parliament already attracts today.
 
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