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More on Max Baucus's Gang of Six

From Matt Yglesias:

[I]t does strike me as worth noting that when you read a puff piece in The New York Times about the Gang of Six bipartisan dealmakers in the Senate that vast power is being wielded by people who, in a democratic system of government, would have almost no power. We’re talking, after all, about Max Baucus of Montana, Kent Conrad of North Dakota, Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico, Susan Collins of Maine, Mike Enzi of Wyoming, and Chuck Grassley of Iowa. Collectively those six states contain about 2.74 percent of the population, less than New Jersey, or about one fifth the population of California. The six largest states, by contrast, contain about 40 percent of Americans.

By Ezra Klein  |  July 28, 2009; 11:33 AM ET
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Too many politicians are bought and paid for by the industries. Baucus and others are walking on the fence tyring to convince their constituents they are repsenting them when they are, in fact, representing the industries they have prostituted themselves to. The best impact would be for people all over the country to contribute to the opposition in their next primaries.

Posted by: hart49 | July 28, 2009 12:09 PM | Report abuse

i wont hold my breadth for ygelasis' defense of the non-delegation doctrine.

typical liberal hypocrite

Posted by: dummypants | July 28, 2009 12:26 PM | Report abuse

this is what the framers wanted (those states rights fanatics). the house with demographic representation and the senate with geographical representation. Unfortunately, with the degree of urbanization and the depopulation of the vast interior, the power that small state senators wield is far out of proportion to the # of people they represent. There should be a limit on the # of people a senator can represent, so the largest states get more senators and a voter in wyoming doesn't get 10 times the influence on electing a senator as a voter in Illinois.

Posted by: srw3 | July 28, 2009 12:32 PM | Report abuse

"Collectively those six states contain about 2.74 percent of the population, less than New Jersey .."


Yeah. But NJ has so many more mayors under federal criminal indictment.

It is unfair. Everyone should have a chance to be as crook-like, venal, and good at stealing as NJ politicos.

Then -- run with the real pro's, the Chicago/Daley gang. Obama, anyone?

Posted by: russpoter | July 28, 2009 1:08 PM | Report abuse

"in a democratic system of government. . ." What in the world is Ezra talking about? I can't tell whether he is ignorant about the Constitution or just ignoring it when it suits partisan purpose. Is he suggesting that perhaps there shouldn't be a Senate? Is he advocating for California-style referenda on a national basis? Who knows, because the callowness of his commentary pushes everything else to the background.

Posted by: jkilmer | July 28, 2009 1:19 PM | Report abuse

I think that it is part of the media's job to vet out these hypothetical "charges" in the "Max Baucus Gang of Six" article. It makes for a catchy headline. But, I do not think, in a million years, that the public, or the media, would allow the six mentioned individuals to kill such a universally mandated reform Healthcare Reform. Not now. We are all watching.

Posted by: jbarish313 | July 28, 2009 1:32 PM | Report abuse

Look dummypants and others, nobody is saying change the constitution. I have no problem with the fact that each state has two senators - this is obviously necessary to prevent senators from larger population states from shoving their agendas through Congress. The issue with the make-up of the Senate financial committee and more specifically, with the people in the "Gang of Six" is that they EXCLUSIVELY represent rural, small population states. Why not get a senator from Texas, Florida, California, NY, or Illinois (just to give a few examples) just to provide some perspective on what people from the city or city suburbs might want?

Posted by: CTgirl3 | July 28, 2009 1:43 PM | Report abuse

Size doesn't matter, position matters. Plenty of small-state legislators are also excluded, not because their states are irrelevantly small, but because they're planted firmly in one side or the other of the political spectrum. The Gang of Six, however, are right in the middle, and of course any legislation that wants to capture the Senate has to win over the middle. If New Jersey had centrist senators then New Jersey would be included, but it doesn't so it's not.

Posted by: bluegrass1 | July 28, 2009 1:50 PM | Report abuse

Bluegrass1, I see your point but by your own logic, CT then should get some say - we have an Independent as one of our senators and Independents are moderates and centrists, right? Not to mention that CT has a larger population than at least 5 of those 6 states I believe...Obviously things like seniority and "bipartisanship" needs play a role in determining who gets on this committee, but I still say it's unfair. At least if you got a senator from California (as an example) they would be representing BOTH rural farmers as well as San Francisco. It's a much more diverse place than, say, Wyoming.

Posted by: CTgirl3 | July 28, 2009 1:55 PM | Report abuse

Get rid of the Senate! It is an outdated institution, serving only to obstruct. At the very least, convert it to a House of Lords (after which it was originally modeled) and give it an advisory role.

Posted by: nymec | July 28, 2009 2:01 PM | Report abuse

The existence of a Senate, where each state has two members, ensures, as the founding fathers intended, the federal government of this country will never become a democracy.
Of course, presidents, politicians, pundits, ordinary people usually speak of the United States being a democracy, but this merely reflects their ignorance of the Constitution and the ideological perspective of most of the founding fathers.

While the antiquated, undemocratic electoral college system can be abolished by a "mere" amendment, every state has to agree to change the underlying undemocratic structure or existence of the Senate. Since this will never happen, the national government will never be a democracy.

So when presidents, politicians, journalists, others preach to other countries about becoming democracies, do they know what they are talking about? Do they want other countries to be like this country, at best sort of a quasi-democracy, or a true democracy, which unfortunately because of the founding fathers this country will never be.

Posted by: Aprogressiveindependent | July 28, 2009 2:23 PM | Report abuse

A "true democracy"? A la "American Idol". No thank you. Rule by popular mandate, whim of the moment, insta-poll. Never. I like our representative democratic republic the way it is -- warts and all. The Founders were brilliant in their device.

If the people want change bad enough, they will get it. (November '08, anyone?)

Posted by: wdrudman | July 28, 2009 3:10 PM | Report abuse

Anyone who thinks this a representative democracy needs to pull their head out.The only change that happens in this country happens for the benefit of the 1% of the country that owns it.

Posted by: par4 | July 28, 2009 3:36 PM | Report abuse

Yes, and even worse, these six Senators represent all these stupid white racist, sexist, homophobic hillbillies that we sophisticated intellectuals who shouldn't even be able to vote -- especially when they vote Republican! Oh, that STUPID Constitution!

Posted by: WashingtonDame | July 28, 2009 3:41 PM | Report abuse

Again, I didn't say change the Constitution - I just said, how about a fairer representation on the Senate Finance Committee? Also, I didn't say that the people in the states these senators represent are stupid, all white, sexist or homophobic. The point is that cities and city suburbs are not getting fair treatment with the senators in this "Gang of Six" as none of them come from states with substantial populations.

Posted by: CTgirl3 | July 28, 2009 3:52 PM | Report abuse

Seems like almost every democracy has this experience. Think of the older "rotten boroughs" in England that were rural and almost completely depopulated by the Industrial Revolution, yet well-represented in Parliament, versus new big urban centers like Birmingham that intially had almost no representation. Or, for a more modern example, the huge power of the farming lobby (rice farming, I think) in Japan. Rural areas tend to be overrepresented in modern democracies, urban areas are underrepresented. And yet life goes on.

Fortunately all of the gang of six (not coincidentally) also have lots of seniority, meaning experience, in the Senate and as far as I know, a lot of respect from their fellow Senators. I'm just glad someone is rolling up their sleeves at this point.

Posted by: fairfaxvoter | July 28, 2009 3:55 PM | Report abuse

THOMAS JEFFERSON once asked George Washington why he had agreed to a two-house Congress. Washington, noting that Jefferson had poured his tea into his saucer in order to cool it, said that he had answered his own question. “We pour House legislation into the senatorial saucer to cool it.”

I love this story. It vexes world improvers since forever. What a great country.

Posted by: zeppelin003 | July 28, 2009 4:17 PM | Report abuse

in response to a mention of the Electoral College . . .

The normal process of effecting change in the method of electing the President is specified in the U.S. Constitution, namely action by the state legislatures. This is how the current system was created, and this is the built-in method that the Constitution provides for making changes.

The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

Every vote, everywhere, would be politically relevant and equal in presidential elections.

The bill would take effect only when enacted, in identical form, by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes--that is, enough electoral votes to elect a President (270 of 538). When the bill comes into effect, all the electoral votes from those states would be awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

The Constitution gives every state the power to allocate its electoral votes for president, as well as to change state law on how those votes are awarded.

The bill has been endorsed by over 1,659 state legislators (in 48 states).

The National Popular Vote bill has passed 29 state legislative chambers, in small, medium-small, medium, and large states, including one house in Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, and Oregon, and both houses in California, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. The bill has been enacted by Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, Maryland, and Washington. These five states possess 61 electoral votes -- 23% of the 270 necessary to bring the law into effect.


Posted by: mvymvy | July 29, 2009 2:12 PM | Report abuse

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