Tag Archive | "Congress"

Resolved, that Congressional Committee Chairs should not be determined by seniority.

Before a bill can come to the House or the Senate for debate, it must pass through committee first. Consequently, the chairs of these committees wield an exorbitant amount of power in legislation. How, then, should it be decided who chairs these committees? On one hand, deciding based on seniority ensures that legislators with presumably greater knowledge and ability to get bills passed are in charge. On the other hand, with members of Congress serving for such a long time, the process of deciding committee chairs by seniority ensures that power will not change hands for many years. In light of these circumstances, how should Congressional Committee Chairs be determined?

KS ~ MAR 2011

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Resolved, that no legislation should be passed by Congress during a lame duck session.

Background: When Congress passed the 20th Amendment in 1933, the “lame duck Congress” phenomenon became a real possibility.  A “lame duck” is defined as one who holds power when that power has a definite end in the near future. In the United States, when an elected official loses an election, that official is called a “lame duck” for the remainder of his or her stay in office.  This phenomenon was demonstrated lately in the case of the 2010 midterm elections, which produced a “lame duck Congress” due to the loss of the House of Representatives by the Democrats.  The remaining congressional sessions before the newly elected congressmen take their seats are bare the label “lame duck” because odd or bad things typically occur.

Pro:

  • For Congress to meet when they know nothing will get accomplished is a waste of time.
  • Legislation coming up during a “lame duck” session is a guaranteed way to create tension between the parties

Con:

  • There is much that needs to be attended to, and it is the duty of our elected statesmen to make a whole-hearted effort to get things done.
  • Trying to pass legislation during a lame duck session may help promote bipartisanship.

~KS

DEC 2010

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Resolved, that the anonymous hold system in the Senate be abolished.

The Senate operates on unanimous consent for most of its actions, which means that if a Senator has an issue with a bill or confirmation, they submit a “hold” before it is submitted to the whole Senate, indicating an intent to filibuster. Usually a hold stops the bill/confirmation to avoid wasting time and the party leaders, bill sponsors, or relevant committee chairmen (these are the only people who know who submitted the hold) resolve the issue causing the hold and the bill moves forward with unanimous consent. This is most relevant to non-controversial business. But recently, parties – Republicans in particular – have taken the anonymous hold to a whole new level. Critics claim that anonymous holds are gumming up government; others say the system is working as usual and that Democrats have treated Republicans just as harshly.
Pro
• The system is being abused; one Senator alone has seventy holds on Obama nominees and such “blanket holds” are becoming more common
• Anonymous holds are keeping 103 federal judges from being confirmed, causing experts to warn of a slowed-down legal system and inspiring bi-partisan condemnation of the anonymous hold system
• Even routine business takes a long time to get through the Senate because the Republicans put holds on almost everything, and it all it takes is one hold to prevent debate from happening
Con
• A hold has no binding force; the Senate just respects them for the sake of time, not out of any legal obligation
• Both parties use the anonymous hold; it is a key tool for a Senator to be able to have a voice
• The anonymous hold has been useful for years and should not be taken away even if it’s being used excessively at the moment

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