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The ConstitutionWhy are there more house representatives than senators?

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dramatik | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted September 24, 2009 at 12:05 AM via web

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The Constitution

Why are there more house representatives than senators?

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scarletpimpernel | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted September 24, 2009 at 12:05 PM (Answer #2)

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A concise answer is that our nation is supposed to demonstrate equal and thorough representation.  The Senate's standard of two senators per state ensures that each state, no matter how small or sparsely populated has an equal voice in the legislative branch of the United States government. In contrast, the total number of representatives from each state is subject to change because the number of reps per state is based on that state's population which determines how many representable districts it possesses.  This structure of the House of Representatives is the reason so many politicians and others are highly interested in the census.  When the census results are determined, a state--depending on whether or not it has lost/gained people--might need to combine or add a new district which would then result in the addition of a new representative to the House.

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timbrady | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted September 24, 2009 at 5:54 PM (Answer #3)

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It is worth remembering that senators were originally selected by the state legislatures to represent the interests of the state.  (This was changed by the 17th Amendment in 1913.)  One of the reasons for this is that many of the founders had their doubts about whether the people could know enough to make good selections for this "upper" house. On the other hand, Representatives were selected to represent their "neighborhood."  In order to make the representation effective, they were allocated to the states based on population.  Because they were more directly responsible to the people, they were and are elected every 2 years (to give the people a chance to correct a mistake?); senators, chosen by the states, were assigned 6 year terms, perhaps because the state legislatures would make better choices?

Both houses have different responsibilities and operate under different rules designed for their specific responsibilities; eg., the Senate has the filibuster; there is not such animal in the House.

If you're interested, you can read more about the direct election of senators at http://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/history/common/briefing/Direct_Election_Senators.htm

 

 

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dbello | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted September 24, 2009 at 9:30 PM (Answer #4)

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The Constitutional Convention of 1787 was mired in satisifing the issues of taxation and representation that plagued The Articles of Confederation. Representation in the Congress between the small and large states was established by The Great Compromise. The compromise designated that every state regardless of geographical size would have two Senators, secondly, members of the House of Representatives would be based on population. This compromise balanced the power between the individual states.  It should be noted in 1929 Congress limited the number of seats in the House to 435 (Apportionment Act )Essentially the 435 seats are reapportioned every ten years based upon the Census.  This law addressed the growing population in a practical manner.

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timbrady | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted September 25, 2009 at 1:39 PM (Answer #5)

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Actually, I think the Apportionment Act was a mistake.  Why centralize power more and more ... the Senate does that.  I would suggest that we restore the original representationship, keep the salary pool for representatives where it is (after all, it is supposed to be service), and see what kind of government we get.  We could even triple/quadruple whatever the number of senators ... spread out the power.  In the era of the internet, of doing business from almost anywhere, we need not think of the old "building" paradigm ... I think the more we spread out the power/control, the better for all of us.

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dbello | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted September 26, 2009 at 12:13 AM (Answer #6)

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Actually, I think the Apportionment Act was a mistake.  Why centralize power more and more ... the Senate does that.  I would suggest that we restore the original representationship, keep the salary pool for representatives where it is (after all, it is supposed to be service), and see what kind of government we get.  We could even triple/quadruple whatever the number of senators ... spread out the power.  In the era of the internet, of doing business from almost anywhere, we need not think of the old "building" paradigm ... I think the more we spread out the power/control, the better for all of us.

In 1787 the Constitutional Convention came to terms with the art of compromise.  The Great Compromise addressed Congressional taxation and representation. Regardless of size each state, each would have two Senators. The House of Representatives would be based upon population. However,  The Apportionment Act 1929 limits the # of members to the House of Representatives based upon the census taken every ten years.  There is no mention in the compromise regarding 'salary pool' nor does iit explain how the increase in the number of Senators 'would spread out the power'...The greatest thing about ideology is it might one day be reality....until then we must never forget how to compromise.

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alohaspirit | Middle School Teacher | (Level 2) Assistant Educator

Posted October 9, 2009 at 12:41 PM (Answer #7)

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There are more people in the house of representatives because that house was apart of the Great Compromise during the Constitutional Convention. This was part of the compromise that one part of Congress would represent the people and this was to make the larger states satisfied since they felt that if a state has more population there should be more representation in Congress.  House of Representatives is based on population, so every state has two senators and at least one representative, and depending on population the number of reps will rise.  So every 10 years when a census is completed that number will change.

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