What if we added 100 seats to the House of Representatives?

posted at 6:31 pm on December 23, 2010 by Allahpundit

I’m curious to see the reaction to this post by David Freddoso. On the one hand, more congressmen and smaller districts means greater accountability, which should please any federalism-lovin’ conservative worth his salt. On the other hand, the idea of adding legislators at a moment when Congress’s approval rating is almost all the way down the drain and tea partiers bristle whenever “D.C.” or “Beltway” is used an adjective seems … counterintuitive.

I think this would be great, just because it would improve most people’s representation qualitatively. Quantitatively, though, the benefits are not so evident. I think the folks who have discussed this idea are confused on a number of levels. For one thing, Wyoming is not the most overrepresented state — by a long way, that distinction goes to Rhode Island, with its two districts, average population 528,000. (As we’ll see in a moment, you could add 100 seats to the Congress and Rhode Island, with two seats, would still be overrepresented.)

Second, their discussion seems to suggest that an enlargement of the House would benefit Democrats because it would add clout to larger states like California. This is incorrect. In fact, it would probably make little difference for either party. And large states like California and Texas are the least likely to benefit (or suffer) greatly from a change in the House’s size. Their large numbers of districts guarantee that they are always close to mean representation, no matter how large the House gets, because they can add them at smaller increments without upsetting the average too badly.

The trick here, obviously, is to increase the total number of representatives without making it so large that the House turns into a chaotic scrum. Follow the link up top and eyeball Freddoso’s numbers; most states now average somewhere in the neighborhood of one congressman for every 700,000 citizens (there are a few outliers) and adding another hundred reps would knock that number down to roughly one per 550,000. Is that a significant difference? Any move towards greater accountability is a welcome move, I suppose, but when you’re talking about populations that vast, what’s 150,000 people here or there?

Something else I’m wondering: If you followed Freddoso’s plan or even expanded upon it to, say, double the number of House seats to 870, what would that do to partisanship inside the chamber? At first blush, my thought was that it would improve cooperation between Democrats and Republicans because (a) it would be harder for the leadership to whip votes and (b) with so many more representatives to keep tabs on, the lefty and righty bases would be less likely to punish any individual congressman for casting an unpopular vote. But now that I think further on it, a bigger House would probably increase partisanship due to redistricting, no? Imagine a district now that’s 60/40 Republican vs. Democrat. That district’s representative has an incentive to cooperate with the other side occasionally to protect his bipartisan cred. If you expand the House, that same district could be carved up into, say, two solidly red districts and one solidly blue one, with base voters in all three districts ready to elect strong partisans who can basically guarantee their re-election year after year as long as they stay ideologically pure. Would that be a better deal than we have now?

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Comment pages: 1 2

My first thought on this was just think of how many more offices they would then occupy. all the staff they would hire, all the budget that would be devoted to them, all the time they would spend thinking up new laws, new regs. We have enough trouble controlling the budget with 435 reps, we could never find enough tax increase to pay for 870 or even an additional 100 reps. How about decreasing the number, that sound like good financial planning.

Oleta on December 24, 2010 at 6:31 PM

NO! We already have too many idiots in DC. I’d say cut the representatives down, not up, but, either way, it requires a change in the constitution, not some made up law by the idiots writing the law. Term limits would help more than anything. 2 terms 5 years each for congress, 2 terms 6 years each for senators. If 8 years is good enough for the president, it should be good enough for these overpriced underworked bell hops!
Also, ban ALL lobbyist, put the senators elections back to the control of the state houses, not popular vote as the constitution intended.

p51d007 on December 25, 2010 at 12:27 AM

Ill agree to anything in the House if they go back to the way Senators were supposed to be elected according to the Constitution originally. Until then….even one more Congressperson is just one more politician without a real purpose except spending our money.

alecj on December 25, 2010 at 7:02 AM

How about one representative per one million registered voters (minimum one), and one senator per state. We’d have 250+ fewer representatives, and 50 fewer senators thinking up ways to waste our money. Make rep elections every four years so they’re not constantly looking for election cash.

MarkT on December 25, 2010 at 10:09 AM

I think the current arrangement is all we need. The lelectorate is to blame for allowing the turdblossoms that we have to get away with what they have. More engagement by the electorate will cure the ills we now experience.

44Magnum on December 25, 2010 at 8:07 PM

The number of legislators is not the problem. The problem is a stupid electorate.

You can’t fix stupid.

Mojave Mark on December 26, 2010 at 11:53 AM

I can give you 535 reasons against………..

cut them in half, or better yet,

2 reps per state period.

No pay. Representatives that represent. period.

They get a free “dwelling” on par for the poorest in their area/district/state, whatever you want to call the “people” that live in the area they represent.

2 year term limit. No life pension after-wards.

They get what we the people get and they must EARN IT.

RealMc on December 26, 2010 at 5:57 PM

RealMc on December 26, 2010 at 5:57 PM

You are correct. In fact let’s get rid of the legislative branch altogether and appoint a single ruler for life. Because fewer reps and less democracy will mean greater respect for our liberties, am I right? Just look at the judicial branch as a shining example of this.

NotCoach on December 27, 2010 at 8:17 AM

Because if there’s one thing we need in Washington, it’s more politicians.

morganfrost on December 27, 2010 at 2:48 PM

Comment pages: 1 2