Why Do We Have Bicameralism?
A key structural feature of Article One is bicameralism. Why is Congress set up in this way? There are many possible answers. First, Congress was modeled on Parliament, which had two chambers–Lords and Commons. Second, splitting Congress into two parts allowed the Framers to reach a compromise on the issue of representation (one house directly elected and one for states). Third, dividing Congress was a way of creating an internal check on the legislative branch.
Let’s think about this last reason for a moment. Why should Congress be internally divided while the Executive Branch and the Supreme Court are not? Madison’s answer to this (in Federalist #51) was that Congress was the most powerful branch, so an internal check was essential. Did this mean that as divided Congress was now coequal to the other branches? Of course not. A division just made it less likely that Congress would exercise its superior power. The upshot being that bicameralism is further evidence that the three branches are not coequal.
As Orin pointed out in a comment to my prior post, though, it is far from clear what consequence should follow from the observation that the branches are not coequal. I hope to elaborate on that in a post next week. In the meantime, Happy Memorial Day Weekend!