Esteemed Colleagues

Esteemed Colleagues: Civility and Deliberation in the U.S. Senate

Burdett A. Loomis Editor
Copyright Date: 2000
Pages: 264
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  • Book Info
    Esteemed Colleagues
    Book Description:

    What's happened to the longstanding traditions of civility and decorum within the world's greatest deliberative body? While the Senate hasn't yet become as rancorous as the House, over the past three decades it has grown noticeably less collegial. In Esteemed Colleagues, leading congressional scholars address the extent to which civility has declined in the U.S. Senate, and how that decline has affected our political system. The contributors analyze the relationships between Senators, shaped by high levels of both individualism and partisanship, and how these ties shape the deliberation of issues before the chamber. Civility and deliberation have changed in recent decades, up to and including the Clinton impeachment process, and the book sheds light on both the current American politics and the broad issues of representation, responsiveness, and capacity within our governmental institutions.

    eISBN: 978-0-8157-9897-2
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. CHAPTER ONE Civility and Deliberation: A Linked Pair?
    (pp. 1-12)

    HOWEVER MUCH WE MAY WANT TO romanticize the “world’s greatest deliberative body,” the cold fact remains that the 1980s and 1990s have witnessed a consistent growth in partisan behavior and position-taking in the U.S. Senate. Although eclipsed by the harsh rhetoric, strident partisanship, and occasional physical contact common to the House of Representatives, the Senate has become a less collegial body. The 1999 death of Rhode Island’s moderate Republican John Chafee brought home how the chamber has changed. As Democratic centrist Senator John Breaux (D-La.) noted, “He was one who really put the country ahead of the party. I hoped...

  5. Part I. Civility in the U.S. Senate

    • CHAPTER TWO Constitutional Cohabitation
      (pp. 15-31)

      ALONE AMONG ELECTED OFFICIALS of the U.S. federal government, senators share the representation of a constituency with another individual. The decision, on the part of the Framers of the Constitution, as to the number of senators accorded each state does not seem to have been a very contentious one.¹ Giving each state a single senator was rejected because the illness or death of a solitary senator would deprive a state of representation even if only temporarily. Moreover, travel was exceedingly uncertain, and this too argued for more than a single senator.

      At the Constitutional Convention, Gouverneur Morris proposed that each...

    • CHAPTER THREE Is the Senate More Civil than the House?
      (pp. 32-56)

      THE DEBATE ON IMPEACHING President Bill Clinton in the House of Representatives was marked by a “distrust [that] is so deep-seated and enduring that there are only downticks in the steady rise in animosity.”¹ Representative Jose Serrano (D-N.Y.) admonished the Republican majority that voted to impeach the president on an almost strict party-line vote: “Bullies get theirs and you’re going to get yours!” Representative Albert Wynn (D-Md.) warned: “There’s raw feelings. It’s going to take a long, long time to heal and there’s not going to be any love fest.” Representative David Skaggs (D-Colo.) said: “Nobody knows whether this place...

  6. Part II. A Deliberative Institution

    • CHAPTER FOUR Individualism, Partisanship, and Cooperation in the Senate
      (pp. 59-77)

      THE SENATE IS UNIQUE AMONG legislative chambers; no other legislature grants its members as individuals so much latitude in the legislative process. Extended debate allows any senator to hold the floor as long as he or she wishes unless cloture is invoked, which now requires a supermajority of sixty votes. The Senate’s permissive amending rules enable senators to offer any and as many amendments as they please to almost any bill, and those amendments need not even be germane. Senators’ prerogatives have their origins in decisions made—or more accurately, not made—in the nineteenth century.¹ Yet, as the Senate’s...

    • CHAPTER FIVE The Procedural Context of Senate Deliberation
      (pp. 78-104)

      “I THINK WE ARE DEALING HERE with sort of a Molotov minuet. Everything we have tried to do, we are being met with, ‘No. Nyet.’”¹ So complained a frustrated Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.), in late June 1999, as he sought agreement with Democratic leaders on a procedure for considering managed health care reform on the Senate floor.

      Throughout the 1990s, the managed care issue sharply divided the two political parties, with Republicans generally favoring a market-based approach to change and Democrats emphasizing more governmental oversight and extending patients’ legal rights. After two procedural votes were taken on June...

    • CHAPTER SIX Last among Equals: The Senate’s Presiding Officer
      (pp. 105-134)

      IN THE FINAL DAYS OF THE Constitutional Convention, the Framers placed the vice president at the head of the Senate. The Framers had given little thought to the creation of the vice presidency; the office itself was a by-product of the process for choosing a president. They gave even less attention to the consequences of naming the vice president the Senate’s presiding officer. “If the vice-President were not to be President of the Senate, he would be without employment,” Roger Sherman (Conn.) explained. Following such reasoning and by a vote of eight states to two, delegates adopted the provision.¹ Within...

  7. Part III. Senate Deliberation in Context

    • CHAPTER SEVEN Constituency Size and the Strategic Behavior of Senators
      (pp. 137-163)

      AMERICANS TAKE THE REPRESENTATIONAL basis of the U.S. Senate for granted. Although it was the issue of greatest contention at the Constitutional Convention, equal representation of states in the Senate has generated little concern since ratification. Yet the Senate’s apportionment scheme has profound consequences for this legislative institution and for the operation of American democracy. InSizing Up the Senate: The Unequal Consequences of Equal Representation, Frances Lee and I explore four areas where Senate apportionment has significant effects: the representational relationships of senators and constituents, the conduct of Senate elections, the strategic behavior of senators, and the design of...

    • CHAPTER EIGHT Senators and Reporters Revisited
      (pp. 164-193)

      THE STATE OF CIVILITY AND deliberation in today’s Senate cannot escape comparison with the Senate of the 1950s.¹ Donald Matthews’sU.S. Senators and Their Worldconstitutes the finest and fullest account of that era. His portrait is well remembered: an insular, clubby, efficient institution with its own “folkways” of hard work, specialization, devotion to the institution, courtesy, reciprocity, and mutual accommodation.² But what is less familiar is how Matthews documented aspects of the Senate that militated against those folkways. Indeed, well before most political scientists of his time, he was to devote an entire chapter, called “Senators and Reporters,” to...

    • CHAPTER NINE The Senate and the Executive
      (pp. 194-220)

      THE TIES BETWEEN THE SENATE and the executive branch are complex and interdependent. The Constitution itself dictates a special relationship between the two entities. Presidential nominations of individuals to serve in both the federal judiciary and the executive branch must be approved with the “advice and consent” of the Senate. Treaties with other nations are negotiated by the president “provided two-thirds of the Senators present concur.” Legislation is debated and approved on the Senate floor, but the president is involved in developing legislation and in devising legislative strategy to rally a winning voting bloc of members (especially in matters of...

  8. Part IV. Civility and Deliberation in Practice

    • CHAPTER TEN Civility, Deliberation, and Impeachment
      (pp. 223-240)

      ON DECEMBER 19, 1998, House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.) took to the floor of the House of Representatives, soon after Representative Bob Livingston (R-La.) had announced his intention to resign from the House before his impending election as Speaker of the House, and just before the House was prepared to vote for articles of impeachment of the president of the United States. Gephardt implored the House to “turn away from the politics of personal destruction and return to a politics of values.” He said, “Bob Livingston is a worthy and honorable man . . . his decision to resign...

    • CHAPTER ELEVEN The Senate Budget Committee: Bastion of Comity?
      (pp. 241-258)

      COMITY REFERS TO THE NORMS, such as reciprocity and mutual respect, that sustain cordial relations in legislative bodies and facilitate the bargaining essential in policymaking.¹ Some level of civility is essential to a member’s willingness to listen to colleagues, to learn from other legislators, and to accept the outcome of deliberation, especially in the congressional budget process. There is now ample evidence that comity has declined in Congress since the 1970s. In the view of analyst Eric M. Uslaner, this change is due to the decline of consensus on core values in American society, such as American exceptionalism, individualism, egalitarianism,...

  9. Contributors
    (pp. 259-260)
  10. Index
    (pp. 261-273)