Thanks to an interesting and oft-forgotten historical footnote, the origin of the terms “Upper Chamber” and “Lower Chamber” are not related to power, but were originally derived from the actual physical location of the respective legislative bodies. The story goes that during the first meetings of Congress in NYC’s Federal Hall, the U.S. Senate occupied the meeting spaces located above where the House members were gathering. The Senate was thereafter considered the “Upper Chamber,” despite having equal power to the House.
But, let’s face it, when one says, “Upper Chamber” it has a different connotation.
As we head into the final days of the Florida legislative session, the terms seem to come into sharp contrast as a gantlet of sorts has been laid down between the upper and lower chambers.
The only problem is that right now it is hard to tell who is up and who is down.
The two chambers are far apart – very far apart – in their respective budgets. And the distance is not just one of numbers but of very different approaches to addressing, among other things, health care for the poor.
Not one bit.
The Senate meanwhile is holding firm in its own way. Holding tax cuts in abeyance, determined to do some variant of Medicaid expansion, and by its own account, standing as the upper chamber; more experienced, less partisan, and more forward thinking. The Senate is the unstoppable force.
Something will have to give. Someone will have to blink.
Here’s the dilemma. If the Senate acquiesces to Corcoran, then, by all accounts, the Senate will be viewed as the lower chamber for an eternal three years.
But if Corcoran backs down, then his cadre of stalwarts will occupy a purgatory-like state of subservience to the Senate for the foreseeable future. They will be seen as the lower chamber.
As budget deadlines loom and as the clock ticks on session, who will blink first in this high-stakes game of chicken? Will the Senate give in on Medicaid but demand significant concessions in the process? Will they find a common solution in an unexpected Kumbaya moment?
And what will we say about the outcome? Which chamber will emerge as the one with the upper hand?