The GOP hasn’t represented a majority of voters in the Senate in 25 years

Gustaf Kilander
·3 min read
Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott introduces Senators Orrin Hatch of Utah, Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, and Larry Craig of Idaho on 27 January 1997.  (AFP via Getty Images)
Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott introduces Senators Orrin Hatch of Utah, Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, and Larry Craig of Idaho on 27 January 1997. (AFP via Getty Images)

The GOP hasn't represented a majority of Americans in the Senate in 25 years but has wielded enormous power, confirming judicial nominees that will change the nature of the federal bench for decades to come and blocking progressive priorities despite representing fewer people than the Democrats since 1996.

The Republican Party was in charge of the chamber between 1995 and 2007, with a brief interlude in 2001-2002 as Vermont Republican Jim Jeffords became an Independent and started caucusing with the Democrats. The Republicans also controlled the Senate from 2015 until 2021. This means that Republicans controlled the Senate for just over half the time since the late 90s despite never representing more Americans than the Democrats during that time.

Republicans have also only won the popular vote in one presidential election since the start of the 90s but have inhabited the White House for 12 years to Democrats' 16 years since 1993.

FiveThirtyEight remarked that the Senate has always given outsized influence to states with fewer people but that hasn't given the upper hand to the Republicans until more recently as both parties competed for rural and populous states at an approximately similar rate until the 60s.

Five Supreme Court Justices and many more on lower courts have been confirmed by Senates controlled by a GOP representing a smaller portion of the populace than the Democrats, The Daily Kos points out, and adds that the Justices confirmed by Republicans are hardcore conservatives willing to suppress voting rights, protect Republican gerrymandering, and block progressive initiatives. This rule by the few has also enabled tax cuts under presidents George W Bush and Donald Trump, boosting the wealth of the rich and further worsening income inequality.

Because of the filibuster, as few as 41 Senators can block a bill, likely forcing the Democrats to pass President Joe Biden's $1.9T Covid relief package through a process called budget-reconciliation without Republican support.

New York Magazine’s Intelligencer noted that because of the filibuster, the 43.5 per cent of voters currently represented by Republicans in the Senate have as much influence as the 44.7 per cent of voters represented by GOP Senators when the party won the House, the Senate, and the White House in 2016.

Democrats are trying to push through as many of their top-tier priorities as they can through reconciliation, which is why the Senate Parliamentarian's ruling that a minimum wage hike to $15 an hour was not a budget item and therefore couldn't be passed through that process was a heavy blow to Senate Democrats.

The Chair of the Budget Committee, Independent Senator from Vermont Bernie Sanders who caucuses with Democrats, blasted the decision by Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough, saying in a statement: “I strongly disagree with tonight’s decision by the Senate Parliamentarian. The [Congressional Budget Office] made it absolutely clear that raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour had a substantial budgetary impact and should be allowed under reconciliation."

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