The Senate Finance Committee advanced the nominations of Steven Mnuchin, Donald Trump’s treasury secretary nominee, and Tom Price, his pick for health secretary, on Wednesday. The vote in committee came after Democrats boycotted a vote in protest, but Republicans then changed the rules for Democrats’ absence not to matter. The two nominees must now be confirmed by the full Senate.
How are they able to just change the rules? Can someone explain this? I never did student council or anything so I’m not informed about how this sort of thing works and I hear about both sides doing it from time to time.
It was an extraordinary move. The Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee refused to show up. A breach of committee rules. Technically, I believe Sen. Hatch went to the Parliamentarian of the Senate and it was affirmed the majority could use a parliamentary procedure to suspended the rules of the committee. This appears constitutional.
It’s been a while since I recall constitutional arguments regarding maintaining or changing Senate Rules. I did a quick refresher thanks to Sen Udall.
Article I, Section 5 of the Constitution states, “Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings, punish its Members for disorderly Behavior, and, with the Concurrence of two thirds, expel a Member.” When the Framers required a supermajority in the Constitution , they explicitly stated so, as they did for expelling a member. On all other matters, such as determining the chamber’s rules, a majority requirement is implied.
A longstanding constitutional principle, upheld in the Supreme Court, holds that one legislature cannot bind its successors. For example, if the Senate passed a bill with a requirement that it takes 75 votes to repeal it in the future, that would violate this principle and be unconstitutional. Similarly, the Senate of one Congress cannot adopt procedural rules that a majority of the Senate in the future cannot amend or repeal.
Vice Presidents of both parties, sitting as President of the Senate, have made advisory rulings that at the beginning of a Congress the Senate is not bound by the rules of its predecessors and has the constitutional right to adopt its rules of procedure by a simple majority vote.