Sunday, January 17, 2010
Two Legislative Bodies
Provision 9 of the United States Constitution, from Article I.1.1, is "The Congress shall consist of two separate legislative bodies - one to be called a Senate and the other to be called a House of Representatives." American citizens have a Right to be subject only to laws approved by both houses of Congress. There was a huge debate at the Constitutional Convention over the best method for representation. Under the Articles of Confederation, each state sent delegates to the House of Representatives, but there was no upper house or senate. Most of the states had both an upper house and a lower house in their state legislatures at the time of the convention. After much debate about how Congress should be organized, a compromise was reached to have both an upper house and a lower house in the national government. The lower house or House of Representatives would represent the population with the number of representatives from each state being determined by the number of citizens in the state and the states divided into congressional districts. Representatives would be selected by popular vote and would represent the people who elected them. The upper house or Senate would be comprised of equal representation (two senators) from each state. The senators were to be appointed by their respective state legislatures and would represent their state and insure that the state's rights and interests were protected. After the Seventeenth Amendment was adopted in 1913, Senators were also elected by popular vote just like Congressmen. Senators now represent the people "at large" or all the people in their particular state. There is no one in Washington with the specific responsibility to guard the rights of the state. The Seventeenth Amendment changed an important part of the system invented by the Founders. Their system was founded on an idea put forth by political scientists for centuries, an idea that combined the advantages of "the one, the few, and the many." The work of the Founders established a system for this idea for the very first time in history. "The one," represented by the President, would administer the law and direct wartime efforts. "The few," represented by the Senate, would guard property and wealth and establish order. "The many," represented by the House, would represent the will of the people. The federal government as well as most of the states adopted this arrangement of government. The idea to have two branches in the legislative body gives the people double protection in that a majority of each house must be in favor of a bill before it becomes a law. The Founders set up a system of government that provided a measure of permanency. All members of the House of Representatives run for re-election every two years. A President serves for four years before seeking re-election for a second term of office. Senators serve for six year terms with one-third of the Senate running for re-election every two years. This system insures that there are experienced leaders in office at any given time. The idea of "the one, the few, and the many" is also apparent in successful families. "The one" is represented by a father, who is the head of the family. "The few" is represented by father and mother working together for the good of the family. "The many" is represented by the entire family in family council.