Let’s abolish the Senate

It can go the way of the House of Lords

The author is a retired Chico State University economics professor.

The U.S. Senate has always been a troublesome body. Although now popularly elected, it in no way represents the population size of each state. Wyoming and California both have two senators.

In attempting to prevent a concentration of power like King George’s, which we revolted from, three branches of government were created. To be extra safe the legislative branch was split into two bodies. The goal of a weak central government failed despite these efforts.

The Senate itself has added to the burden of legislative approval by allowing filibusters (unlimited speechmaking) by one or more senators and by requiring a super-majority vote to halt such debates. It also has allowed individual senators to put a hold on action on proposed legislation, along with other tactics. So, with these obstructionist qualities, let’s eliminate the Senate as a legislative body.

This may seem like inhumane treatment for current members who have risked fame, fortune and integrity to obtain their seats. If so, let’s keep the Senate as a hereditary body like the House of Lords in the United Kingdom. But let’s strip away any powers and ask the members to maintain the chambers as a museum devoted to unproductive enterprises.

Each senator would be entitled to participate in endless speeches, but without electronic amplifiers, which the Senate is known for. Each would also become a docent to provide tours of the museum. Tourists would be required to wait at the doors for 30 minutes regardless of the size of the crowds, but could make “campaign contributions” to a senator for early entry. This would give the visitors a real feel for how the Senate used to work and provide senators with their usual source of income.

Senate seats could be passed on to members’ children who are at least 65 years of age. This would demonstrate the advantages of incumbency and the parade of the aged that we have now.

Full disclosure requires me to admit that I formulated this brilliant idea while reading Cakes and Ale by W. Somerset Maugham. He was anticipating the elimination of the House of Lords, a process that is still incomplete 80 years later. What did he propose to do with the Lords? I recommend you read the novel.