Unemployment is at a decades-long high and yet federal benefits are scheduled to run out this weekend, unless a single U.S. senator lifts his objection.
Forget Sen. Jim Bunning's hypocrisy -- demanding benefits be paid for even after voting for massive tax cuts that were not offset with any spending cuts -- the Senate hold he is using is just one more example of how the upper house has fallen into disrepair.
One senator can hold up legislation for any reasons at anytime. A minority of senators can stymie bills -- a minority representing no more than one ninth of the national population -- and even if we can get through a filibuster, we face the prospect that half the Senate -- representing about 20 percent or 25 percent of the population -- could kill a bill.
The compromise that created the Senate was a logical outgrowth of the times. The individual states in the late 18th century functioned as independent nations on some level and the compromise was needed to get the smaller states on board. Today, such a compromise looks quite quaint.
Amending the U.S. Constitution to reconstitute the Senate would likely be impossible, however, because the compromise enshrined small-state power in the amendment process. But the Senate cannot continue to (mal)function the way it has.