Campfire Blog

The Founders Knew the Senate Would Be Full of Itself

Recalling the days when the Senate would stop time in order to usher through controversial bills

American politics rarely has been especially civil, even in that stuffy chamber that christens itself the “world’s greatest deliberative body.” The Founders, especially the authors of The Federalists papers, designed the Senate to be a slow-moving, slow-thinking—hence, deliberative—chamber, and they basically predicted that many of the pompous personalities of America would end up in that exalted house. This is why they created many checks and balances, using “ambition to counteract ambition.” It’s a brilliant system.

And within that framework, the Senate has created its own quirky manner of twisting even its own rules, from current Majority Leader Harry Reid passing Obamacare by calling it a budget bill to vice presidents of the United States, in their capacity of the president of the Senate, ordering the Senate doorkeeper to push back the Senate clock in order to allow more time for him to usher through controversial bills in the 19th century.

Read about the history of the Senate’s shenanigans, also known as precedents, here (1 page). But those calling for reform should be careful:  that tangled web of procedural rules and exceptions keeps our senators busy tinkering around with their own funny rules, and maybe that is what the founders wanted in order to prevent them from doing too much damage.

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