Pundits and politicians lately have been harping on the growing distrust between the Senate and the House. One blog commenter even said “If the House and the Senate do not trust each other, how can the American people trust the government.” He is correct, and it is one sign that the Founding Fathers really knew what they were doing.
John Feehery has an excellent article over at CNN entitled “Can the House trust the Senate?” His opening two paragraphs just about say it all:
When the Founding Fathers decided to create a bicameral legislative branch, they were trying to make things difficult for the federal government to grab power from the people.
What the Founding Fathers may not have foreseen was how much the House and the Senate would grow to dislike and distrust each other. Why is this important now? Democrats in the House may have to take the political risk of voting to pass the health care bill based on assurances from the Senate that the upper chamber will eventually modify the law to change some things House Democrats don’t want.
The Founding Fathers set up a Congress that had two competing interests – the House that represented the people, and the Senate that represented the states. These two houses of Congress were always meant to be at odds with each other – in order to protect the people it was meant to serve. James Wilson (1791):
…a single legislature is calculated to unite in it all the pernicious qualities of the different extremes of bad government. It produces general weakness, inactivity, and confusion; and these are intermixed with sudden and violent fits of despotism, injustice and cruelty. (Of Government, The Legislative Department, Lectures on Law)
Add to this bicameral house an entire government with branches that share different powers equally. The entire government is meant to be at odds with itself – with a certain amount of distrust and perhaps hostility –in order to protect the Republic which it serves. The Founding Fathers built in this level of distrust within the government, because they had a healthy distrust of government itself. Thomas Jefferson: “That government is best which governs the least, because its people discipline themselves.” They slowed down the government – making it difficult to govern and pass laws – precisely because they wanted a limited government in the first place.
In this insane push towards a Health Care Reform – we can take comfort that the distrust that is going on is entirely healthy.