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{Empty title} | The Nation

The US Senate is now finally debating health insurance reform, after surviving a filibuster by Republican opponents of change. The filibuster is an outdated relic that perils our democracy. The term filibuster comes from a Spanish term for "pirate" and indeed, the filibuster is now being used to hijack the ability of the Senate to act..

The US Senate, to begin with, is not a representative legislative body. Each state, regardless of population, gets two Senate seats. Six states, mostly in the west, have only one representative in the House of Representatives, due to their small population. Yet they are entitled to two seats in the US Senate. That's in the Constitution, and is not likely to be changed anytime soon.

Yet today, we often hear that it will take sixty votes in the Senate to pass a particular bill. The cavalier use of the filibuster by Senate Republicans to block virtually anything from being passed takes the unrepresentative nature of the Senate and makes it an absurdity.

The forty Republicans Senators represent 97,030,080 US residents (giving each US Senator one half of the citizens in their state). That is only 35 percent of the total US population of 281 million people.

Can someone tell me how it is that US Senators representing only 35 percent of the population can dictate what does and doesn't become law? What part of "democracy" don't they understand?