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Enactment of a Law

Contrasting Procedures of the Senate and the House

The order of business in the Senate is simpler than that of the House. While the procedure of both bodies is basically founded on Jefferson's Manual of Parliamentary Practice, the practices of the two bodies are at considerable variance. The order and privileged status of motions and the amending procedure of the two are at less variance than their method of calling up business. The business of the Senate (bills and resolutions) is not divided into classes as a basis for their consideration, nor are there calendar days set aside each month in the Senate for the consideration of particular bills and resolutions. The nature of bills has no effect on the order or time of their initial consideration.

The Senate, like the House, gives certain motions a privileged status over others and certain business, such as conference reports, command first or immediate consideration, under the theory that a bill which has reached the conference stage has been moved a long way toward enactment and should be privileged when compared with bills that have only been reported.

At any time the Presiding Officer may lay, or a Senator may move to lay, before the Senate any bill or other matter sent to the Senate by the President or the House of Representatives, and any pending question or business at that time shall be suspended, but not displaced. Included in this category are veto messages, which constitute privileged business and which may be brought up at almost any time; however, a Senator cannot be deprived of his right to the floor for this purpose nor may certain business be interrupted, such as approving the Journal, while the Senate is dividing "or while a question of order or a motion to adjourn is pending."

The Senate is a continuing body as contrasted with the House. Two-thirds of the Senators of an old Congress return to the subsequent new one without having to be re-elected, but all Representatives must stand for re-election every two years. Thus the manner and extent of organizing each new Senate have not been established under the influence of definite breaks between each Congress as has been the experience of the House, nor have the parliamentary rules of the Senate been equally subjected to alterations. Representatives re-adopt their old rules of procedure at the inception of each Congress, often with slight modification, while Senators have not given a general reaffirmation to their rules since 1789. The rules adopted by the Senate in the first Congresses have remained in force continuously, with the exceptions of particular additions or abolishments from time to time. Any such changes are made by amending the rules to meet new needs of the body. Changes have not been frequent, as demonstrated by the fact that a codification of the accumulated alterations has occurred on only a few different occasions.

The continuity of sessions of the same Congress is provided for by the Senate rules:

At the second or any subsequent session of a Congress, the legislative business of the Senate which remained undetermined at the close of the next preceding session of that Congress shall be resumed and proceeded with in the same manner as if no adjournment of the Senate had taken place. (Rule XVIII)

In its rules and practices, the Senate always has emphasized the importance of maintaining decorum in its proceedings. "At no stage of the Senate's proceedings may a Senator "refer offensively to any State of the Union." "No Senator in debate shall, directly or indirectly, by any form of words impute to another Senator or to other Senators any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming a Senator." "No Senator shall interrupt another in debate without his consent, and to obtain such consent he shall first address the Presiding Officer; and no Senator shall speak more than twice upon any one question in debate on the same day without leave of the Senate, which shall be determined without debate." "If any Senator, in speaking or otherwise, transgress the rules of the Senate, the Presiding officer shall, or any Senator may, call him to order; and when a Senator shall be called to order he shall sit down, and not proceed without leave of the Senate, which, if granted, shall be upon motion that he be allowed to proceed in order, which motion shall be determined without debate."

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