Home Economy Tyranny of extreme minority: House traditions allow just a handful to dictate agenda

Tyranny of extreme minority: House traditions allow just a handful to dictate agenda


The United States House of Representatives is the lower chamber of Congress and one of the two major bodies that legislate for the US government. While the House of Representatives has 435 elected representatives, the process of getting legislation passed requires the support of multiple congressional committees, and there are often certain House traditions in play that can limit a true majority vote.

For instance, in the House of Representatives, a simple majority of 218 votes is needed to bring a bill to the floor for debate. However, it is tradition that bills be marked-up and negotiated with multiple committees and their chairs, which is often only a handful of individuals, before they can be voted on. This can mean that any one of those committees holding up the process can effectively veto a majority decision. Additionally, some controversial or divisive pieces of legislation can demand the approval of the Speaker of the House, who themselves can have a tremendous amount of influence over the voting process.

In practice, this means that even though the House of Representatives is democratically elected, a small number of members and committee chairs can effectively decide what legislation is debated and voted on. This is known as the “tyranny of an extreme minority” and has caused issues within the House, where the minority can be at odds with the majority. This minority can also block further discussion and amendments without the majority’s approval, effectively dictating the agenda of the House.

Ultimately, the tyranny of an extreme minority within the House of Representatives has become a critical issue, as it limits the amount of debate and discussion that takes place to form legislation, and can lead to decisions made by committee members that do not align with the majority opinion.

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