What is the difference between the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives? If the people have the power to elect them, where do our state governors go to make their voice heard? Is it up to the people to elect state and federal representatives with the same values and concerns or do states have any authority when it deals with the federal government?
Let’s look at the basics first. There are 435 U.S. congressmen and 100 senators. In Texas, there are 150 members of the Texas House and 31 members of the Texas Senate. Those are our state and federal representatives only and it doesn’t even touch on our city and county representatives. Thankfully, each of us only needs to vote on one U.S. senator, one U.S. congressman, one state senator, and one state congressman, so it shouldn’t be difficult to research four people at most after an election and know what they believe in. Yet how many people can name all four of their representatives?
Ok, we can elect them but how are they supposed to work together? It’s fairly easy to see how the federal representatives work (or not) together and how the state representatives work (or not) together. We have seen recently that the federal government has sued Arizona, but can a state sue the federal government to make sure that the federal government is doing what the state needs? The simple answer is no. The federal government has sovereign immunity and can’t be sued UNLESS it waives this immunity. Good luck with that!
Effectively, there are no checks and balances for our states and federal representatives. I found an Office of State-Federal Relations in Texas, but it doesn’t seem to have any explicit authority. All it does is funnel information from the federal government to the Texas governor and legislative representatives. Obviously, the state receives funding from the federal government and administrates federal programs here within the state but I can’t find anywhere on the state level where we can hold the federal government accountable to the states. Seriously???
Originally the U.S. Congress was elected by the people and the U.S. Senate was appointed by the individual state governments, therefore the congressmen were accountable to the people and the senators were accountable to their states to do what their states needed and wanted. What it boiled down to was that the larger states, ones with large populations, had the most congressmen and all of the people were represented equally, yet all states had only 2 senators and therefore all states were represented equally within the federal government. The Seventeenth Amendment changed this and our U.S. Senate was then elected by popular vote in the states.
In one respect, this was good, in that the senators had to be concerned with public opinion and not state opinion, politics and the Good Ol’ Boys network. Yet it also undermined the authority of our state governments. Now the state has no one in Washington, D.C. who is accountable to our state legislatures. The state governors have banded together into the National Governor’s Association, which helps a little but it tends to help states in general, not states in particular.
So what is the difference between the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate?
To Be Continued…