How the Bi-Cameral Legislature Demonstrates a Deepening American Political Divide

Emma Relyea - Teen Aspect - August 13th, 2022
(Pew Research Center, 2020)
 

The Founding Fathers clearly knew what their priorities were. I’m not talking about their powdered wigs or fight for liberty, but more of what they thought the most important branch of government ought to be.


Take a look at the Constitution: the comparative lengths of the first three articles say a lot. Article I is the Legislative Branch and takes up half of the entire United States Constitution. Article II details the Executive Branch and is less than half the size of the one before it. Last, and seemingly least, is Article III and the Judicial Branch. This section is, again, less than half the size of Article II with little to no detail of this Branch’s responsibilities. (i)


(Fine Art America)

If their attention to detail regarding Congress wasn’t convincing enough, the Founding Fathers took their time making sure our Legislature was exactly what they wanted - and for good reason.


Following the Great Compromise in 1787, the Bi-Cameral Legislature as we know it today was born. The House of Representatives was designed to be, as the name suggests, representative of a certain population. However, this meant that as far as state biases were concerned, more population-dense states would receive more representation. So, the Senate was introduced to have two Senators per state, no matter its size or density. (ii)


What the Founding Fathers likely didn’t account for was how large of a role their intricate Bi-Cameral Legislature plays in modern politics.


Amidst a Roe v Wade reversal, climate legislation inactivity, and threats to the well-being of our veterans, the American people are ever so divided along party lines. Although we can argue the functionality of two-party politics, the true colors of states (whether red, blue, or purple) are on display now more than ever. This is not only shown on election days, it’s shown through the Senate versus the House of Representatives.


If a bill does not come out of one legislature labeled as “bipartisan”, it seems impossible to pass in the other. Partisan abortion rights bill? Passes in the House but fails in the Senate (iii). Partisan marriage equality bill? Passes in the House but is expected to fail in the Senate (iv). Bipartisan Gun Safety Bill? Passes in the House and in the Senate (v).


In my law class, we used to joke that the opposite of progress was Congress - but it’s starting to become more of a reality. Sure, having debates and discussions about bills on the Congressional floor is necessary. However, when immovable partisan divides prevent any real progress from occurring, it’s cause for concern.


Why Congress can’t seem to pass a bill in both legislatures leads to questions of how deep political allegiances and division in the United States truly goes. Not only have both parties become more ideologically united, but the House of Representatives has become more liberal while the Senate has become far more conservative (vi). With both legislatures designed to serve different people and purposes, ideological differences seem favorable. Instead, having such a deeply rooted divide causes compromise and reason to be thrown out the window and instead, party lines and blame come into play.


Labels, naming, and designations become increasingly more important when such occurs. With a country forced to either side of political debates, we are pit against each other and therefore against one of the legislatures. If a bill originates in the House, we’re led to believe it was designed for liberal thinking. If a bill originates in the Senate, we’re led to believe it was designed for conservative thinking. So, instead of looking into the actual substance of a bill, we continue to divide and automatically label it as destructive if it comes from the other side.


Factions come into place because people align with their views. Although this is increasingly harmful to the American people, current political issues make it extremely hard to overcome such a divide. Abortion concerns and marriage equality are not issues either party seems keen on agreeing on and have shaped what we believe to be the current Democratic and Republican parties.


References


1 National Archives and Records Administration. (n.d.). The Constitution: What does it say? National Archives and Records Administration. Retrieved August 3, 2022, from https://www.archives.gov/founding-docs/constitution/what-does-it-say


2 Onion, A. (2018, April 17). How the great compromise and the Electoral College Affects Politics Today. History.com. Retrieved August 3, 2022, from https://www.history.com/news/how-the-great-compromise-affects-politics-today

3 Karni, A. (2022, May 11). Bill to guarantee abortion rights fails in Senate. The New York Times. Retrieved August 3, 2022, from https://www.nytimes.com/2022/05/11/us/abortion-bill-blocked-senate.html


4 Serwer, A. (2022, July 29). Republicans' cowardly excuses for not protecting marriage equality. The Atlantic. Retrieved August 3, 2022, from https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2022/07/gop-respect-for-marriage-act-obergefell-supreme-court/670985/


5 Cochrane, E., & Kanno-youngs, Z. (2022, June 25). Biden signs gun bill into law, ending years of stalemate. The New York Times. Retrieved August 3, 2022, from https://www.nytimes.com/2022/06/25/us/politics/gun-control-bill-biden.html


6 DeSilver, D. (2022, April 22). The polarization in today's Congress has roots that go back decades. Pew Research Center. Retrieved August 4, 2022, from https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2022/03/10/the-polarization-in-todays-congress-has-roots-that-go-back-decades/

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