MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A senator silenced and a vice president’s historic tie-breaking vote — they’re just a couple of the dramatic story lines playing out in Washington D.C. this week as President Trump picks his new cabinet.
All of the discord got us wondering about the moves lawmakers are making. So what are the rules of Congress? Good Question.
There are 44 standing rules the Senate must follow, it’s one in particular we heard a lot about Tuesday night: rule 19.
Republicans silenced Senator Elizabeth Warren reading a letter written 30 years ago by Dr. Martin Luther King’s widow, opposing Sen. Jeff Sessions nomination as attorney general.
Kathryn Pearson is a political science professor at the University of Minnesota.
“It is essentially a rule that says senators cannot impugn other Senators they can’t criticize other senators on the Senate floor,” Pearson said.
It didn’t take long for #LetLizSpeak to start trending on Twitter. Hours before the Warren drama, it was Vice President Mike Pence who used his power provided by the Constitution to approve another cabinet pick.
“On occasions when the vote is 50-50, the vice president will become as his role of president of the Senate cast his deciding vote,” Pearson said.
Then, there’s rule 22: the formal procedure for breaking a filibuster, an attempt to block Senate action. We’ll likely hear more about this when it comes to President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch.
In 2014, then Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid changed the rules of the Senate so that the only nominees that could be subject to a filibuster were actually Supreme Court Nominees.
It could all lead to a rule change to block that filibuster with what’s called “the nuclear option”– something President Trump has already pushed for.
“Then, Senate Republicans by a majority vote meaning 51 votes change the rules of the Senate but it would be such a monumental change that that’s where the term going nuclear refers to,” Pearson said.
Pearson expects it all to only lead to more rare rules used in the future.
“I do predict that because the parties are so fiercely competitive and they’re also so far apart on the issues,” Pearson said.
Pearson pointed out there is a significant difference between Senate and the rules for the House of Representatives.
There is no possibility for a filibuster in the House, which has about four more times the membership as the Senate and the Senate favors deliberation, while the House usually pushes through legislation in a shorter period of time.