Day: February 10, 2011

The US Senate In Turmoil: Rapid Turnover Becoming A Fact Of Life

The US Senate is often called the greatest debating society in the world, and it carries tremendous prestige, with so many of its members often thought by them and by others as potential candidates for the Presidency.

So the rapid turnover going on in recent years is a fact of life, but it helps to make the Senate appear in turmoil with so many new members.

In the 112th Congress, there are 16 new senators, 13 Republicans and three Democrats, and now a total of five Senators, three Democrats and two Republicans, have announced their intention to retire at the end of their terms in 2012.

Democrats Kent Conrad of North Dakota and Jim Webb of Virginia, and Independent Democrat Joe Lieberman are leaving, and Republicans Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas and Jon Kyl of Arizona also are retiring, with all but Webb having had multiple terms in the Senate.

A lot of the wisdom and the vision of the Senate is leaving, so while many have varying views of all these five Senators, in many ways it is a sign of the stresses and tensions of serving in the Senate, making it far less desirable for many to stay beyond two to three terms.

Of course, on the other hand, it might be a good thing that fewer Senators are deciding to remain to the point where they might be wearing out their welcome–which, at least in the mind of Tea Party Movement leaders, might be true of Republicans Senators Orrin Hatch of Utah, Olympia Snowe of Maine, and Richard Lugar of Indiana, with Hatch and Lugar having served six terms already, but still planning to run yet again in 2012. The question of whether it is good for some Senators to serve into their 80s remains a major subject of debate, even at a time when others decide to “throw in the towel” by a more normal retirement age.

Presidents and Split Congresses: A New Observation

A while back, the author wrote about split Congresses, whereby the House of Representatives and the Senate have been placed in the hands of opposing political parties.

As indicated, it has now happened for 12 years since 1900–under President William Howard Taft 1911-1913, President Herbert Hoover in 1931-1933, President Ronald Reagan 1981-1987, and now President Barack Obama from 2011-2013.

And as reported, in each of the first three cases, a Republican President faced a Democratic House and Republican Senate, while now for the first time a Democratic President faces the opposite, a Republican House and Democratic Senate.

What has now been realized through the assistance of one of my History students, Stephanie Mundo, at Florida Atlantic University, is the observation, never crossing my mind, that the “people’s branch”, the House of Representatives, which is elected every two years, has been in each case put into the hands of the party opposing the President, while the Senate, which only turns over one third at a time due to the six year Senate terms, remains with the President. So the vote of no confidence is demonstrated by the House of Representatives becoming the center of opposition.

This fact really makes sense, and may only be of concern to true academics and political junkies, but it IS an interesting point, and I wish to thank Stephanie Mundo for making me realize that interesting, and actually very significant, point of analysis about split Congresses.