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"lee dreckman" Discussed on WNYC 93.9 FM
"And analysis from NPR and WNYC. All this hour. We've been talking about the new congress. We ask you for your expectations by name is John Farage from Orleans, Pennsylvania. I don't see the opportunity much progress. My name Laura, and I am from forest grove, Oregon. I fully expect the new congress to be completely ineffective listens. Not a lot of hope out there. And that's not a surprise public opinion of Congress's pretty dismal. According to Gallup's most recent data just eighteen percent approve of the job. Congress is doing the house of representatives has a reputation for being a bit rowdy. There are four hundred thirty five members after all that's more than four times the number in the Senate. But did you ever wonder where that number came from? It's four thirty five because in the nineteen tens of the nineteen twenties. Congress couldn't agree at add more members. And then they decided well, maybe we have enough. So it's been that way for over a century. Now, that's Lee Druckman. He's a senior fellow in the political reform program at new America. And he has an idea for fixing the dysfunction in the house. Make it bigger might really congress would be a much more Representative institution. If there were more members at four hundred thirty five it's hard for congress to be really a Representative sample of the country, which it was intended to. Be congress are though more diverse now than it was before the twenty eighteen election is still predominantly an institution of older whiter men. And it doesn't really reflect the country have a bigger congress. It's more Representative of the country. I think ultimately it would create more space for new coalitions to form something a little bit more like a multi-party system in which you build coalitions on issue by issue basis leadership wouldn't be able to be so top down. You'd have a more vibrant committee system more vibrant subcommittee system, which arguably is is how congress has worked best. If if you want to look at when congress was most productive from about the nineteen sixties to the to the eighties was when there was a real thriving committee system subcommittee system. And I think that's exactly what you would wind up having with a much larger house. Yeah. I mean to me that is the most exciting part of it. Right. The theory that we can really create different kinds of coalitions that today or not. Possible in a house that has many more people and the interests are going to be much more localized tell me how big us think the house should be how many members do you think would be a good place to start? Then that would mean how many people in a congressional district would be represented by a member. So I'm going to go back to what it was. One thousand nine hundred twelve when we got four thirty five it was about two hundred thousand to one and that would take us to sixteen hundred members in the US house, which is a pretty serious increase. Although it still puts us on the high side in terms of international comparisons on the number of constituents per Representative in the UK. It's a hundred thousand to one in Germany. It's it's pretty similar the only other comparable democracy that would be over that is Japan at two hundred and seventy thousand or so to one so it's still possess on the high side. So Lee someone who I pride myself on knowing all of the congressional districts in the country, and who represents those districts, I can barely keep up with the new members of congress elected every two years how on earth could having maybe sixteen hundred members not turn into total utter chaos. Well, it would be a little bit more chaotic that's for sure. But maybe cast is a good thing. If it creates fluidity and responsiveness, sure members might not get to know each other. But they don't really get to know each other now already Congress's kind of a big chaotic institution, particularly the house. I think what you'd see if you had a much larger house is UT this decentralisation of power in the house, which I think would loosen some of this binary, hyper partisanship and would create some space for new coalitions that cut across the way that the parties are split right now. And then we, of course, get into the important question of how that house then works with the much smaller United States Senate, especially a Senate that could be controlled by one party. Right. And so you could get a whole bunch of bills making it through the house when the with these divers interesting new coalitions, and then they get to the Senate and just hit a total roadblock. How could this process actually push legislation beyond just the house while the Senate was designed to be the place where the passions of the people were cooled and the Senate is the place where legislation goes to die. So I have a proposal an idea that's been in my mind, but I'm going to put it out there and see what people think is is a reverse filibuster in which the Senate has to vote on any Bill that get sixty percent of sport in the house and vote up or down. But it, but it has. Vote on it. That would keep the Senate from being an entire. I think there'd be a lot of pressure on the Senate to bring up bills that are popular in the house. The other big divide. We have in this country, as you very well know is geographic right that there is a rural urban divide that has gotten even more significant and tell me how increasing the size of the house would impact that it seems to me that it would make that rural urban divide even worse with rural legislators feeling like oh my gosh. We're losing all of our influence, obviously, the areas of growth in this country aren't coming in places like Nebraska or Kansas or North Dakota. Well, certainly, you would have more presentative who would represent the broader spectrum of the country. But I mean, the reality is that that rural America is less than twenty percent of the population now is classified as rural and the the congress should reflect the broader population of the country and right now because of the way districts are drawn rural America has a disproportionate influence in the US house. So I think the house should represent the diversity of the country fairly not in a distorted way, which it does now. And do you see this as sort of an all or nothing thing? Like, forget about just increasing it by ten or fifteen seats or twenty seats. You gotta you gotta go for sixteen hundred or a thousand or not really try at all. I mean, I'm a believer in doing it in a really big way. Some people have proposed to go back to what the framers would have intended. If we got to. This big of a country, which would be about six thousand that was actually this is the funding this fun. Bit of history is that the original first amendment was going to be an apportionment amendment that Madison's initially proposed twelve amendments of which only amendments three three twelve became the Bill of rights, but amendment number one was that you were going to fix the number of constituents to representatives at thirty thousand to one up to one hundred members forty thousand to one to two hundred members and then after that fifty thousand to one and that was as high as as he could conceive of going now past the congress. It was always just one state short of getting the the requisite three quarters of states to to approve it Lee Dreckman. Thank you so much for joining us. Hey, it's my pleasure lead Trotman is a senior fellow in the political reform program at new America. Here's my take more members.