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Memories of the 28th Century

Parliamentary Tactics

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Over the years, the rules of the Houses of Congress have changed for various reasons, but mostly because the rules for a group of twenty and some odd people must be different from the rules of a group of fifty or a hundred or three hundred and some odd.
The first rules of the House limited speeches, but not much, and the original Senate rules allowed Senators to speak as long as they wanted. Those rules were adequate, because most Senators were aware that “brevity is the soul of wit.” And most of the representatives realized that they didn't have all that much to say about anything.

On the other hand, Congress had that problem that has continued; they ignored the limits that the Constitution imposes. It was so bad that Washington, who had attended most meeting of the senate for a time, quit doing so, because the congressmen spent most of their time trying to raise money for their friends, even if the reasons were unconstitutional.

The nastiness of congressional politics developed slowly, but after an early assault, there was little violence for decades, and the first filibuster was in 1837. But the filibuster came into existence as a result of a peculiarity of the Senate rules; moving the previous question does not exist in the Senate rules (thanks to Aaron Burr). If one cannot move the previous question, then it is difficult to cut off debate; the Senate created the “cloture motion” to get around the problem, but cloture requires sixty votes to pass.

Physical violence has been an occasional problem in Congress, but that can usually be handled through the ethics process. But on two occasions outsiders invades and engaged in violence in addition to the Trumpists in January of this year, in 1954, some Puerto Rican separatists opened fire in the House, but there were only four of them, so they were overcome, but the U.S. Has continued paying for that by subsidizing Puerto Rico.

Recently, there have been attempts to play games with Congressional rules, so it might be a good idea to rewrite the internal rules of the Houses of Congress to make the rules more similar to widely used sets of rules of order. There are a few items that are unique about the U.S. Congress, but most of the motions are common to all legislative assemblies. There never was a good reason to eliminate the moving of the previous question, and it should be restored to the Senate rules. Congress has the right to judge and punish crimes against it, and that should happen with respect to the traitors who invaded the Capitol in January, and penalties should be given liberally; beheading might be a good penalty. And the Houses of Congress should happy to to take action against member who misbehave, and that should include excluding people elected who are unfit to be members of Congress.

There are excellent reasons for all opinions being hear, but there are some opinions that are not worthy of consideration, and Congress would be wise to exclude any persons who follow the Qanon foolishness. I don't think that a pig farmer in the Philippines should be considered to best source for information.

The rules of the Houses of Congress should try to keep the the limits and authorities that are laid out in the Constitution are followed by laws and acts of Congress. It should be impossible for anything that does not strictly adhere to the Constitution to pass Congress, and that is especially true if it plays to some politic preference. There are too many giveaways that were created to try to buy votes.

I wrote this, because some in Congress are trying to make it easier for them to accomplish their goals. I can understand that, but they should remember that what they change now for their convenience might be very inconvenient in the future. There are problems with Senate rules, and when we recall the origin of the filibuster rule it makes sense, but I do not want to make this about Burr.

Like the many presidential edicts, those rules need to be considered carefully.

Updated 06-03-2021 at 07:08 AM by PeterL