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Was part of the reason for a two-house legislature the idea that it would be more...

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arichardson27 | Student, College Freshman | eNoter

Posted June 11, 2011 at 11:44 PM via web

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Was part of the reason for a two-house legislature the idea that it would be more difficult to pass legislation?

Was part of the reason for a two-house legislature the idea that it would be more difficult to pass legislation?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted June 12, 2011 at 12:11 AM (Answer #2)

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If we are examining the concept of a two- house legislature as outlined in the United States' Constitution, I think that the reason for formed was more to strengthen the legislative branch.  The idea of "runaway legislation" had not been fully understood at this point.  The Great Compromise, put forth by Roger Sherman at the Constitutional Convention, suggested the creation of a bicameral legislative branch.  One part of it would have representation determined on the basis of a state's population, an aspect that proved appealing to the larger populated states at the time.  The establishment of a "higher house," called the Senate, comprised of a fixed number of representation from each state.  This helped to maintain an equal footing for all states regardless of population.  In the establishment of the two house legislature, compromise between both sets of states, one with large populations and one with small populations.  In this, the idea of legislation being heard by a great many voices helped to feed the notion that the more people who have input on legislation will help to minimize the chances of tyrannical laws being passed, a major concern of the framers of the Constitution.

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted June 12, 2011 at 10:20 PM (Answer #3)

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I agree with #2. It is not so much that legislation becomes more difficult to pass, but that the two house system means that laws are more fully reviewed by a more representative group of people that would hopefully make it harder for unjust or questionable laws to be passed. Thus it is not about making it more difficult for new laws to be passed. The point of the two house system is to make sure that laws are properly scrutinised in terms of their impact and that any revisions are made before they might be hastily rushed through and imposed on a public without having the full impact considered and anticipated.

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brettd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted June 13, 2011 at 1:46 AM (Answer #4)

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Actually I do believe that part of the concept of the bicameral legislature is to limit the legislature itself, so that any bills they do pass must have a majority consensus, and is therefore more representative of the popular will in a democracy. 

The Great Compromise which detailed the structure of the American legislature was also an attempt to satisfy the various states and their interests, as well as their nervousness at joining a federation.

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted June 13, 2011 at 2:05 AM (Answer #5)

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I agree with Post 4 and not with Posts 2 and 3.  The Framers of the Constitution were scared of a government that would be efficient because such a government would be able to tyrranize the people more effectively.  This is why they created a bicameral legislature.  You can also see this in how they created different constituencies for the House and Senate and gave them different terms in office.  They did not want a landslide of sentiment among the people to be able to quickly become law.

The whole point of checks and balances and separation of powers is to make it so that more people have to agree before a law can be made and implemented.  The Framers clearly wanted it to be harder to pass legislation and that is why they created a bicameral legislature.

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wannam | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted June 14, 2011 at 12:22 AM (Answer #6)

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I don't think the intention was to make it more difficult to pass legislation, but that is often a side effect of the two house system. Think about it. If there was only one house and it was controlled by one party, they could pass whatever they wanted. With a two house system, we are more likely to have fair legislation that represents what the majority of the people want. That's the idea anyway. Sometimes, as we've seen recently, the side effect of this system is that legislation is much more difficult to pass. Often something that one group thinks is important becomes diluted with compromise in order to get it to pass at all. Our legal system does not move at a very rapid pace. While this can leave us behind in some ways, it helps to ensure an equitable system of government.
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stolperia | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted June 17, 2011 at 9:04 AM (Answer #7)

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The framers of the Constitution didn't really trust the common people. They also definitely did not trust the idea of putting too much power in any one person or position. As a result, they worked very hard to create multiple means of checks and balances that would spread the power through many levels of responsibility and would prevent any one party from assuming control.

The creation of the House of Representatives and Senate, the Great Compromise, allowed for recognition in the House of the larger number of voting citizens (white male landowners) in some states, balanced by the equal number of votes alloted to each state in the Senate. The goal was to force careful and balanced consideration of legislation from many different viewpoints. I don't think making passage of legislation more difficult was specifically stated as a reason, but the process was designed to force thorough examination of every issue brought before the Congress.

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litteacher8 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted June 22, 2011 at 2:12 PM (Answer #8)

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I think that making legislation more difficult to pass was part of the reason for the two houses. Since they balance each other, it is harder to ram irresponsible bills through. The framers of the constitution wanted checks and balances in many forms. Two two houses are designed to balance the power of different states as well. Senate seats are equal, but house seats are based on population. There will always be a much smaller number of senators than representatives. More populous states might have an advantage in the house, but not the senate.
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K.P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted July 31, 2011 at 10:23 AM (Answer #9)

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Having two houses of legislature, peopled by legislators of different stature (as originally framed), insured that two perspectives were applied to any piece of legislation. The practical end result would be a limiting of legislation as the two perspectives would neither always be able to nor wish to view legislation through the filter of agreement.

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