|Under the headline Senate Democrats' minimalist agenda, The Washington Post reported that the Democratic majority has intentionally restrained itself to save seats in states like these.
The May 21, 2011, Post account states: "Democrats have decided to try to shield those lawmakers from the usual weeks-long debates and instead await for compromises to be reached behind closed doors. Reid's approach is a bet that doing nothing looks better for them, so long as their arguments resonate with voters in 2012."
Welcome to governance in the Senate half of the 112th Congress. Any wonder we have been stuck with an immovable Senate? Doing their jobs might cause some Democrats to lose their jobs in the November 2012 election. The Democratic leadership worried that they might lose their 51-47 majority if they overplayed their hand; two senators then were independents who caucus with the Democrats.
What, then, is the point of having a Senate?
Senate gridlock is rooted in the Senate's composition that requires equal representation for all states, while leaving the House of Representatives with proportionate representation. Senate Democrats represent all five states that opposed proportionate representation during the Constitutional Convention in 1787. Rhode Island, which did not participate in the convention, is also represented by Democrats in the Senate.
Most low-population states are conservative or conservative-leaning. They are represented by Republicans in the Senate or alternate between the two parties. Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota was defeated for re-election in 2004. If he represented New Jersey or New York, he almost certainly would be serving in the Senate today.
Daschle's fellow Democrats do not want others like him defeated, so they adjusted their agenda to protect their Senate seats in swing states. Three of those states, where two incumbents were retiring and a third was up for re-election, are home to 3.5 million people - Nebraska, 1.7 million; Montana, 975,00; and North Dakota, 646,000.
So, 1 percent of the nation's citizenry - out of 308 million Americans - can propel the Senate leadership to ignore or minimize the needs and concerns of tens of millions of Americans. Democrats in the 112th Senate represented 190 million Americans after the 2010 election and 204 million in the 2008 election before Scott Brown, a Republican, was elected on Jan. 19, 2010, to fill a Massachusetts Senate seat left vacant by the death of Sen. Edward Kennedy.
Under these overall population estimates, each senator is counted as representing half their state's population. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter's switch to the Democratic Party is not counted here because he was elected as a Republican.
The four Democratic senators from New York and California collectively represent one-sixth of America's population, 36.9 million in California and 19.5 million in New York.
That leaves 56.4 million Americans, and 135 million from other moderate or liberal states, in the lurch.
If the Senate represented the populace on a more proportionate basis, then far more attention would likely be paid to issues raised by the senators from high-population states such as New York and California.
Our present form of government was launched in a building at Wall and Nassau streets in lower Manhattan that was demolished two decades later. George Washington was inaugurated on the balcony on April 30, 1789. Eight blocks northeast, 212 years and four months later, two hijacked airplanes slammed into the World Trade Center towers.
It was this very form of government that threatened funding of two programs for New York City resulting from the 9-11 tragedy. One issue prompted bickering between a Manhattan congresswoman and a senator who represents fewer people than the number who live in her district. Manhattan alone comprises triple the population of the state that sent Mike Enzi to the Senate. For those who are confused by New York's geographic composition, Manhattan is one of five boroughs that comprise NYC, population 8 million plus.
Manhattan's population is 1,600,000 and Rep. Carolyn Maloney represents 700,000 people. The population of Enzi's state, Wyoming, is 544,000.
In December 2010, Enzi opposed the Zadroga bill to compensate 9/11 workers sickened during the clean-up of the World Trade Center site. He was even accused of quarterbacking a campaign against the bill with a document that Carolyn Maloney called "a pack of lies."
The New York Daily News attributed to unidentified sources the claim that Enzi, ranking Republican on the Senate Health Committee, was behind the opposition to the Zadroga bill, which would spend $7.4 billion over 10 years to provide health care and pay victims.
The revenue would be raised from closing tax revenues on foreign corporations. Because Republicans were against employing this source for revenues, New York Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, both Democrats, suggested other funding alternatives.
The News reported that the Republican document ignores their offers and labels the foreign tax provision a job-killer, and blatantly fabricates the claim that 95 percent of the workers were provided for in a recent $625 million legal settlement.
Only 10,000 people who sued, not the 30,000 who received some form of treatment, are covered by the settlement, the newspaper article clarified.
Calling these claims "a pack of lies," Maloney said, "If these were legitimate concerns, why are Senate Republican leaders only raising them now, at the last minute, instead of years ago?"
Enzi would not respond to these accusations, but a week later he penned an op-ed piece in the News where he claimed that health-care providers that received federal grants for 9/11 health programs "have failed to tell Congress where that money has gone."
In a follow-up letter to the News, Maloney and Jerrold Nadler (Ground Zero is located in his congressional district) wrote that "Enzi has already gotten detailed responses to the questions he raised. We know exactly how the 9/11 health clinics have spent their money, and so does Enzi."
In a Dec. 3 editorial, the Daily News employed phrases such as "distort the truth" and "torture decency" to describe Republican tactics. "They should stand at the graves of all those whose lungs were fatally destroyed, starting with NYPD Detective James Zadroga, who labored 450 hours at Ground Zero, and repeat the libel." The bill was named after Detective Zadroga.
Obama signs Zadroga Act
Next excerpt - Two senators, a high road and a low road