The Vice President and the Senate

22Oct08

I knew there was a reason I still have NewsBusters in my RSS reader:

But while Matthews was correct to argue that the majority leader is the real conductor of the legislative train in the upper chamber of the Congress, he was incorrect in insisting it is the Constitution which leaves the Vice President with no say in the daily affairs of the U.S. Senate other than casting tie-breaking votes.

As the U.S. Senate Web site makes clear, while the Constitution restricts the Vice President’s votes to tie-breakers, in the earliest days of the Republic, Senate rules of order afforded the Vice President a greater role in the workings of the chamber as presiding officer than they do now. Indeed, at the time of its ratification, some critics worried the executive branch had too forceful a hand in the Senate’s workings…

While Gov. Palin may very well find herself with little say in the Senate’s business, it’s not because the Constitution tells her to sit down and shut it, it’s because the rules of the chamber have made it such that the presiding officer, be it the Vice President or a pro tempore officer, has little power in affecting the course or substance of floor debate.

Oh how much I still need to learn from history.

That said, I don’t agree with the sentiment that we should turn back that far in the past for governmental guidance.

Since that time we’ve had numerous balance of power shifts, from Marshall asserting the power of the judicial review to the executive branch’s seizure of the declaration of war. And that doesn’t mention the advancement of civil rights or other individual developments many would consider important.

Frankly, I’m not concerned with whether or not Palin has any ground to stand on. I’m concerned that in order to justify her view, one literally has to go back to the Washington administration. If she had been watching the office in recent years, wouldn’t she have caught that the Vice President today operates completely detached from the Senate?

Does her anachronistic view of the VP strike anyone else as odd?

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