The Federalist Papers went to great lengths to explain the strengths and purposes of the proposed new Constitution with its novel checks and balances in which power was distributed between the branches of government and even within the legislative branch with its bicameral chambers.
The members of the House of Representatives were to be closest to the people and stand for election before those people every two years.
“As it is essential to liberty that the government in general should have a common interest with the people, so it is particularly essential that the branch of it under consideration should have an immediate dependence on, and an intimate sympathy with, the people,” James Madison wrote in Federalist No. 52 in 1788. “Frequent elections are unquestionably the only policy by which this dependence and sympathy can be effectually secured.”
When it comes to the four men who represent rural Nevada in Washington on the Potomac, the two who serve in the House appear to be closer to the people in at least one respect — financially. If anyone who is paid $174,000 a year can be all that close to being just one of the people.
Unlike the two men who serve Nevada in the Senate, they are not millionaires.
Mark Amodei, whose 2nd Congressional District covers the northern half of the state, reports on his recent financial disclosure form assets valued at somewhere between $100,000 and $230,000, as of May 15, 2013. On the disclosure forms, investments are listed by name but values are merely designated within a range, such as $1,001 to $15,000 or $50,001 to $100,000.
As for income from those assets, Amodei reports making somewhere between $2 and $400.
His rural counterpart, Steven Horsford, whose 4th Congressional District covers the southern half of the state except for two districts in Clark County, is likewise a man of relatively modest means. His assets fall between $27,000 and $230,000. Income from those assets amounted to between $400 and $3,600. He did get pay and severance from his former employer, the Culinary Academy of Las Vegas, of $190,000.
Explaining why senators would serve longer six-year terms, Madison wrote in Federalist No. 62, “The mutability in the public councils arising from a rapid succession of new members, however qualified they may be, points out, in the strongest manner, the necessity of some stable institution in the government. … But a continual change even of good measures is inconsistent with every rule of prudence and every prospect of success.”
Financially, Nevada’s two senators are rather stable.
Dean Heller of Carson City lists assets of between $3 million and $8.7 million, with income from those assets between $70,000 and $165,000. Like representatives, Heller’s salary is $174,000 a year. He lists his wife’s salary from the Carson School District as “Over $1,000,” though the website TransparentNevada.com lists a certified substitute named Lynne Heller being paid $675 in 2012.
Harry Reid of Searchlight lists assets of between $1 million and $6.2 million, with subsequent income between $43,000 and $1 million. As Senate majority leader, Reid draws a salary of $193,000.
Reid’s assets include a 160-acre tract of land in Bullhead City, Ariz., just across the Colorado River from Laughlin. Reid’s current financial disclosure statement lists the land as being worth between $250,000 and $500,000, though previous statements listed the land as being valued at between $1 million and $5 million. That was shortly after Reid earmarked $18 million in federal funds to build a bridge across the Colorado nearby, but it was never built.
Since members of the House would be closest to the people, Madison noted they were to be given the power of the purse, as noted in Federalist No. 58, “The House of Representatives cannot only refuse, but they alone can propose, the supplies requisite for the support of government. They, in a word, hold the purse …” All bills raising revenue must originate in the House, the Constitution says.
When Madison was writing, senators were to be appointed by state Legislatures as yet another check on federal power over the states. That was changed by the “progressive” 17th Amendment in 1913, doing major damage to the concept of federalism.
Now we have 1,000- and 2,000-page bills originating in the Senate — such as ObamaCare and the immigration “reform” bill — that contain taxes, fines and fees, as well as a larder full of pork.
Those closest to the people should hold the purse, and a smaller one at that.
Thomas Mitchell is a longtime Nevada newspaper columnist. You may share your views with him by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Read additional musings on his blog at http://4thst8.wordpress.com/.