A Bill Becomes a Law
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Unit 10
 
Legislative Lingo
 
Strategies and Power Plays
 
Exceptions to the Rule
 
Stats, Quirks, and Examples
 
House Versus Senate
 
The Legislative Junkie

Floor Debate

Unit 10

 

1. Debate in the House and Senate is the culmination of months (and sometimes years) of effort by proponents to shepherd the bill through the previous stages and to line up support. The actual debate can be disappointing; most of the members' minds are already made up. Often few members are on the floor to hear the debate, since those taking part are talking more to their constituents and providing their rationale of legislative intent.

COMING SOON! [Video: Senate debate --legislative intent]

2. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: Given its larger size, debate in the House is more structured. Most debate occurs in the Committee of the Whole, which allows any 100 members to comprise a quorum (rather than the 218 members needed for the full House). The originating committee selects a floor manager for each side of the debate who controls the time allotted to each member desiring to speak. Once the allotted time for debate has expired, the Committee of the Whole votes on the legislation and reports back to the entire House.

When the House dissolves into the Committee of the Whole, the mace (the symbol of power) is taken down and a new presiding officer is appointed.

Video: Shift to Committee of the Whole [Requires most recent version of the RealPlayer. To find which version you have installed, open the RealPlayer and click on Help >> About RealPlayer.]

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Video: Floor Manager Parceling Out Time Time: 0:40 [Requires most recent version of the RealPlayer. To find which version you have installed, open the RealPlayer and click on Help >> About RealPlayer.]

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3. SENATE: Senate size, rules, and tradition favor more flexible debating rules. Once a Senator is recognized by the presiding officer, he or she can talk as long as he or she wishes. Unlimitied debate is known as filibuster. It does not exist in the House. The possibility of filibuster gives each Senator a great deal of control over chamber business.

COMING SOON! [Video: Senate debate -- filibuster]

4. PRECEDENTS: Formal rules cannot anticipate all situations. The formal rules of Congress outlined in the Constitution, Jefferson's Manual (House only), the House Manual, and the Senate Manual are supplemented by a series of precedents based on past rulings of the chair. Each chamber has a parliamentarian who advises the presiding officer of rules and precedents.

COMING SOON! [Video: Parliamentarian giving advice]

 

Home Unit 1: Introduction Unit 2: From Problems to Solutions Unit 3: Origin of Bills Unit 4: Bill Drafting and Floor Introduction Unit 5: Referral to Committee Unit 6: Subcommittee Review Unit 7: Mark-up and Subcommittee Voting Unit 8: Committee Action Unit 9: Scheduling Floor Consideration Unit 10: Floor Debate Unit 11: Floor Votes Unit 12: Ironing Out Differences Unit 13: Presidential Action and Congressional Reaction Unit 14: The Legislative Processes