Last month, the second-place finisher in the 2016 presidential election bragged that he is “proud to shut down the government.” He followed through on that threat, and 34 days into the longest shutdown in U.S history, roughly 800,000 federal workers are expected to miss a second paycheck tomorrow.
Although the Democratic House majority voted to reopen the government almost as soon as it was sworn in, the GOP-led Senate has thus far stood behind accidental president Donald Trump. That pattern continued on Thursday, when the Senate voted 52-44 to sustain a Republican filibuster of the Democratic plan to reopen government. Because 60 votes are needed to break such a filibuster, this means that the motion failed.
Six Republicans, Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Susan Collins (R-ME), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and Mitt Romney (R-UT) voted in opposition to Trump. Meanwhile, four other senators — Sens. Richard Burr (R-NC), Rand Paul (R-KY), James Risch (R-ID), and Jacky Rosen (D-NV) — did not vote.
The Senate is a malapportioned body which gives each state two senators regardless of population. Thus, each resident of Wyoming, which has just over 585,000 residents, effectively receives 68 times as much representation as a resident of California, which has nearly 40 million residents.
A perverse consequence of the anti-democratic Senate is that votes in the upper house of Congress rarely bear any resemblance to the will of the people. On today’s vote, the 52 senators who opposed Trump’s shutdown represent over 181 million people. Meanwhile the 44 senators who voted with Trump represent less than 132 million people.
ThinkProgress calculated this figure by using U.S. Census estimates of each state’s population. In states where both senators voted against Trump’s shutdown, we allocated the state’s entire population to a vote to reopen the government. In states where both senators voted with Trump, we allocated the state’s entire population to that outcome. In states where the two senators disagree, we allocated half of the population to each camp. You can check our work by examining this spreadsheet.
Shortly before this vote, the Senate also rejected, by a 51-47 margin, a White House proposal that would have reopened the government, but also funded Trump’s wall and introduced draconian changes to American immigration law (60 voters were necessary to advance Trump’s proposal as well). Yet, while the bloc of senators who supported Trump’s proposal represent a slight majority of the seats in the malapportioned Senate, they represent a minority of the nation as a whole.
To summarize: a president who lost the popular vote by nearly 3 million ballots shut down much of the government last month. In the last U.S. House election, Democrats crushed Republicans by 8.6 points, and the democratically elected House majority voted to reopen government. Meanwhile, senators representing 56 percent of the country just voted to rebuke Trump.
Yet, because our system of government bears only the faintest resemblance to one where our leaders derive “their just powers from the consent of the governed,” the government remains shut down.