Tyranny of extreme minority: House traditions allow just a handful to dictate agenda
One of the inherent problems with the House of Representatives is its extreme minority rule. This is because its rules and traditions allow a handful of members to dictate the agenda of the chamber without regard for the majority of members in the body. The Speaker of the House, a member of the majority party, holds a great deal of power over the daily agenda. This is enhanced by the undemocratic tradition of allowing the previous Speaker to retain the chairmanship of the Rules Committee. This committee has the power to determine the parameters under which any debate or vote can take place, therefore essentially dictating how much or how little a majority of members can do to debate or alter legislation. The Speaker can also exercise this power through the practice of “closed rules”, which limit amendments to a particular bill without a floor debate. Finally, party leadership on both sides has added “calendar rules” which essentially grant it greater control over the timeline of legislative progress.
Essentially, all of these designations, traditions, and rules place the majority of the members of the House at a disadvantage, allowing a small minority of powerful individuals in the chamber to dictate the agenda. This reduces the participation of the vast majority of members in the body, leading to a deadlock in Congress as well as a lack of responsiveness to the will of the people. In order to make the House of Representatives truly representative and bring about meaningful change, it is essential that these rules and traditions be reconsidered and reformed.