The House of Representatives is Scalable
An oft raised concern about a larger House is: “Would they get anything done?” That begs the question of whether, with 435 Representatives, they have gotten much done that has been beneficial for most Americans. As Will Rogers once observed: “Never blame a legislative body for not doing something. When they do nothing, they don’t hurt anybody. When they do something is when they become dangerous.” That being said, the question of scalability is a legitimate one that needs to be addressed.
The notion that a larger House will get less done is predicated upon the assumption that its work gets done while most of its members are assembled in the House chamber. And, if that were so, it would be reasonable to conclude that the larger the House, the less productive they would be. However, as President Woodrow Wilson observed back in 1885, “Congress in session is Congress on public exhibition, whilst Congress in its committee rooms is Congress at work”. And, as it turns out, there are currently far too few Representatives to competently do all the work that needs to be done by the House committees.
For all intents and purposes, the House in session consists largely of speechifying and showboating in front of a mostly empty chamber, for the benefit of the cameras, while the real work is being done in the committee rooms. In fact, when the House is ostensibly in session, it is usually merely assumed that a quorum is present, thereby allowing the House to maintain the pretense of conducting working sessions while its members are elsewhere, in committee meetings, dialing for dollars, or otherwise engaged. Therefore, surprisingly little of consequence gets accomplished in the House chamber while they are “in session” other than occasionally voting on legislation that has been proposed by one of their committees and, even then, it is often necessary to send out the Sergeant at Arms to round up enough members to achieve the quorum required for a vote.
With a much larger House, several hundred Representatives could continue to work in DC, while most of the rest will be able to work remotely from their home districts where they can better serve, and be monitored by, their constituents. As explained in this section, not only can the House be scaled up without a loss of productivity, but doing so will improve the overall quality of the legislative process.