Senate v. House of Lords

Senate v. House of Lords

Today, on Fox News Radio (via The Hill), Rep. James Clyburn, the House majority whip, let loose with some nasty words for the upper half of the U.S. bicameral legislature: "[Senators] tend to see themselves as a House of Lords and they don’t seem to understand that those of us that go out there every two years stay in touch with the American people. We tend to respond to them a little better."

It’s an easy statement to sympathize with. In the past year, the majority-rules House has seemed a paragon of populist efficiency, passing cap and trade and the health care bills with relative ease — before the Senate’s long horse-trading process winnowed public support for the latter, and before the Democrats lost their 60th Senate seat and thus their ability to stop Republican filibusters.

But it left me thinking — if only the Senate were like the House of Lords!

At the very least, Britain realized that the institution was anti-democratic and unpopular — and reformed it, diminishing its power and changing its crusty composition. Parliament has progressively reduced the number of hereditary peers, the land-owning barons of old, replacing them with life peers appointed for career excellence. Plus, in the future, Parliament will likely start making peers elected. (See the composition of the House of Lords here.)