Rep. Cantor vs. "The Mainstream"

September 01, 2009 11:45 am ET — Matt Finkelstein

In an interview with CNN's editorial board, Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA), weighed in on the possibility of Senate Democrats using reconciliation to pass health care reform.  According to Cantor, using reconciliation "would necessarily mean" that the bill does not represent "mainstream" views:

Cantor said the public anger displayed at some town-hall meetings on health care would worsen if Democrats force through a bill using reconciliation.

"If they use ... the reconciliation option, it would necessarily mean that a bill proceeding under those rules is not a bill representing the mainstream of this country," Cantor said, adding such a move would make it harder for Obama to make further progress.

Now, reconciliation would require a majority of the Senate to support a bill, so Cantor's argument is already flimsy.  However, when you consider what percentage of the overall population is represented by Democrats, his case falls apart completely.  As Matt Yglesias noted, just 25 Senate Democrats (out of 59) represent over half of the country's population:

If you attribute to each Senator half the population of the state he or she represents, then the Democrats' two Senators from California, two from New York, one from Florida, two from Illinois, two from Pennsylvania, one from Ohio, two from Michigan, one from North Carolina, two from New Jersey, two from Virginia, two from Washington, two from Massachusetts, one from Indiana, one from Missouri, and two from Maryland together represent 51.125 percent of the American people. That's just 25 Senators. There are an additional 35 Democratic Party Senators.

It can't be said enough: just 25 senators represent a majority of the population.  We're talking about getting 51 to support reform.  Meanwhile, low-population red states like Wyoming get just as much say as places like California and Pennsylvania.  The odds are actually stacked in favor of "not the mainstream." For better or worse, this is how our democracy works.

Steve Benen also points out that Republicans routinely used reconciliation when they were in power, even firing two Senate parliamentarians who challenged their application of the procedure.  But, presumably, Cantor didn't object to their defiance of the "mainstream."

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