Government Shut Down

As Congress gears up for another fight over funding the government, the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act, commonly known as ObamaCare, once again takes center stage.  In the funding process, only the House of Representatives is authorized to originate bills raising revenue for the government and the House has approved a bill that would fund the general operations of the government, but not ObamaCare. For this bill to become law, the Senate must also pass it and the President must sign what was passed by both houses of Congress. So if the government were to experience another shut down whose fault is it?

Underlying this debate is the fact that according to most polls, including ABC, CNN, NBC and USA Today, ObamaCare is widely unpopular among Americans. Among the polls just mentioned, the spread of dissatisfaction ranges from 10 to 18 percent above those who are for or favor ObamaCare. Real Clear Politics, which is an average of all polls on the same subject, holds the average dissatisfaction of people who are against or opposed to ObamaCare to be 13 percent above those who favor the law.

In any debate between the House of Representatives and the Senate, since the advent of the 17th Amendment, it is better to uphold the will of the majority in the House than the will of the majority in the Senate, because the House better represents regional constituencies than the Senate. This phenomenon is caused by the election process for the two different chambers of Congress.

Each member of the House is elected by Congressional district while each Senator, as a result of the 17th Amendment, is elected in statewide popular elections. Currently US Representatives speak for an average of 730 thousand people per district while each Senator speaks for an average of 6.3 million people per State.[1] It is important to note, many of the Congressional districts do not include large urban centers, while each State does, so it should be easy to see how the voices of people living in rural areas can be drowned in a sea of 6.3 million voters encompassing large urban populations.

In a constitutional republic, which America was created to be, the perspective of every regional constituency matters and although the will of the majority should prevail, it should not prevail in the form of either a national or State popular vote on matters of national interest. The will of the majority in a constitutional republic means the majority of constituencies, not the majority of people, because many groups of people choose to live their lives differently than the majority of the total number of people living in America and their choice must be respected. Sadly, the will of these constituencies are not represented with the Senate’s support of ObamaCare.

In a democracy, the minority will be disenfranchised from the electoral process, because the majority of people will always overrule their vote. In a constitutional republic, their voice will be heard and their views respected in legislation, because voting is done regionally instead of popularly. This is the difference between the post 17th Amendment Senate and House of Representatives. The House is more accurately portraying the will of a wider selection of people, whereas the Senate, like a pure democracy, is forcing the will of the urban centers down the throat of the nation.

People who live in rural areas have different priorities, wants and needs than those who live in urban centers. Consequently, these different priorities manifest themselves in distinctive voting decisions. However, due to the concentration of people in urban centers, urban centers can and often do out vote people living in rural America and such is the case of ObamaCare.

A good example of this can be seen by comparing a 2012 Electoral College map County by County to one that just shows which States went for each candidate; red for Republican and blue for Democrat. In the County by County Electoral College map you will see seas of red in States like New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Ohio, Illinois, Michigan, Nevada, California, Oregon and Washington that eventually went for Obama. In these States, the majority of constituencies, represented by county, were disenfranchised by the popular will of the majority of people living in urban centers of those States.

2012 County by County ECM

2012 Electoral College Map by State

To preserve the voice of regional constituencies, the framers of the Constitution mandated a specific number of people to be represented per each Congressman, now known as Congressional districts, and they stipulated Senators to be chosen by State legislatures, which were also composed of representatives from the different regional constituencies of the State.

Due to the 17th Amendment altering the election method of State Senators to a State wide popular vote, the Senate no longer accurately represents the will of each State, but instead represents the will of the most populous sections of the State, while disenfranchising people living in rural areas. In a similar way, the winner-take-all Electoral College system in 48 States has done the same thing as the 17th Amendment; advances the will of the most populous sections while disenfranchising the majority of constituencies in each State as seen in the above graphics.

This is a very important issue that best shows its glaring flaws when Americans have unpopular laws, like ObamaCare, imposed upon them. In the battle over funding the Government and the so called Affordable Health Care Act, the national government has come to an impasse in which the House is demanding one thing and the Senate and President refuse to negotiate.

The House of Representatives is better portraying the popular will of the nation, while the Senate is holding Americans hostage to an agenda Americans overwhelming do not want.  Since the House has passed a spending bill that represents the national popular will, the Senate and the President should respect the collective voice of the people. If they instead refuse to work with the House in seeing the bill passed into law, then it is the Senate and the President who are responsible for shutting down the government, not the House of Representatives.

As polls discussed above portray, most Americans do not like ObamaCare, but Americans are nearly equally unwilling to have the national government shut down to defund, repeal or delay its implementation.

ObamaCare is a dysfunctional law that will become so odious its eventual repeal is practically inevitable. In the mean time, Americans will spend billions of dollars in implementation costs and suffer much anguish over skyrocketing insurance premiums while the quality of their health care plummets. All of this could be avoided if we put our national government back into balance by restoring the voice of the majority of constituencies in our election process.

Along with demanding the repeal of ObamaCare, Americans should also demand the repeal of the 17th Amendment which has helped put us in this position.

If this does not happen and since the opposition likes popular votes so much, then let us have a national referendum and those who like ObamaCare can vote to participate in it and those who do not will be able to vote themselves an exemption from it. The fairness of this measure cannot be denied.


[1] Some States, like California, have over 38 million people while other States, like Wyoming, have only 576 thousand people which is less than the average Congressional voter district.

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