The Senate Finance Committee “Gang Of Six” And Health Care Legislation

I am a big lover of the US Senate and am the author of a book on senators during the New Deal, many of whom came from small Midwestern and Western states, so I understand fully how much senators from small states can have an impact.

Therefore, I am particularly interested in the reality that six senators from small states –three Democrats (Max Baucus of Montana, Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico, Kent Conrad of North Dakota) and three Republicans (Charles Grassley of Iowa, Mike Enzi of Wyoming, Olympia Snowe of Maine) are the major figures involved in blocking major health care reform, including a public option. As members of the Senate Finance Committee, they have made it clear that they do not wish to go as far on health care as the various committees in the House of Representatives.

The problem is these six senators together represent a population about the size of New York City (8.4 million people) and 2.75 percent of the total population of the nation. But they will have a major impact on health care reform and have a good chance to prevent major changes.

The three Democrats in particular represent states which only have ONE Congressman per state, and it seems to many that this whole situation is outrageous, and that the Senate is undemocratic in nature and should be changed.

But of course, there is no way that the Senate can be changed. The only major reform has been the 17th Amendment, which led to direct popular election of the Senate beginning in 1913. But the Founding Fathers did not set up the Senate to be a democratic body. Rather, it was set up as a barrier to “popular” rule and has long acted as a brake on the House of Representatives.

The Senate is a slow moving, slow adapting body, and often that is good, as it has prevented many unwise ideas passed by the House, including many crazy ideas for constitutional amendments.

In this case, the fight for health care reform, however, the Senate is becoming the bottleneck, and is giving too much power to a handful of Senators, who, were they in the House of Representatives, would have no attention given to them and would would wield no power at all.

Such is the makeup of our government, as established by the Founding Fathers, and there is nothing we can do about it!

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