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Unformatted text preview: Policy-Making in Washington: Policy Subsystems 1 The Other Body: Rules and Norms in the Senate • The Senate is as informal as the House is formal. In the House, time is allocated to particular topics, and no one may speak on anything else. • No such rule in the Senate, where a treaty debate may be interrupted for a speech on farm payments. • No one “controls” time in the Senate, and thus anyone may be recog- nized to speak on any subject at any time. • That in turn means that a single senator may bring business to a halt, at least temporarily, by taking the floor and speaking on another issue. • Because anybody can obstruct the Senate, it follows pretty naturally that the Senate operates by getting everyone’s agreement on what to do. • In order to force an end to such time control, the Senate has a petition for “Cloture” to force the end of debate at a time certain. • Cloture requires 60 votes, which means that any group of 40+ can stop the Senate from doing any business so long as it wishes to hold the floor—an act called a filibuster . • Rarely used in the past, the filibuster is now so common, that the automatic calculation is that passing something in the Senate takes 60 votes—50+1 to pass the bill, but 60 in order to get the chance to vote on it. • Since it is rare that the minority party has as few as 40 votes, that means in effect that nothing can pass the Senate over the determined objection of the minority. 1 Note the contrast with the House: The majority can pass whatever it wants in the House, but nothing at all in the Senate if the minority chooses to filibuster. And in this Congress the Republican minority is filibustering virtually all majority party proposals. • Because the Senate lacks formal procedures to schedule its business, it operates usually by unanimous consent. • Every senator who wishes to be is consulted and nothing is planned until every one agrees. • The practical means of doing this is that the majority leader (now Harry Reid of Nevada) and the minority leader (now Mitch McConnell of Kentucky) settle everything themselves....
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This note was uploaded on 11/27/2011 for the course POLI 100 taught by Professor Rabinowitz during the Fall '07 term at UNC.
- Fall '07