Alternate Routes to Senate Reform

Senator Jeff Merkley has laid out the most realistic vision of reforming the US Senate that I’ve seen. But I do think it’s worth expanding the scope of concepts under consideration.

One, the “House of Lords” scenario, would involve a grand bargain. On the one hand, the current members of the US Senate would agree to reconstitute itself as a basically powerless symbolic institution. But in exchange, we would eliminate the elections. Instead, current members of the Senate would acquire hereditary seats (including salary, travel stipend, staff budget, etc.) that their families could enjoy indefinitely. That seems like a win-win to me.

Another alternative, the “Mirror Universe” scenario, would also involve life-tenure in the seats. But members of any given state’s House delegation would be authorized to challenge incumbent senators to a dual to the death. If the incumbent dies, the challenger takes his place. It’s hard to see the practical benefits of this system, but it would at least be more entertaining than current filibusters.