About that Pro Forma Session

By August 8, 2008Miscellaneous

AP has the story, “Non-senator wields fast gavel in 30-second session.” Less than 30, but in any case…

It was the first time in more than 60 years that someone other than a senator had to fill in. Back in 1947, a spat between the parties blocked the Senate from naming a presiding officer known as the president pro tempore. Then, Leslie Biffle, a confidante of President Harry Truman who was the secretary of the Senate, filled the chair instead.

A strict reading of Senate rules suggests that Friday’s session might not have been entirely legitimate since the rules say the secretary can preside if a president pro tempore hasn’t yet been chosen. President Pro Tempore Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., was elected last January.

Republicans, however, said they agreed with Democrats that Friday’s meeting passed muster.

A bipartisan consensus! Strictly speaking…

Here’s the rule again:

Standing Rules of the Senate
RULE 1
APPOINTMENT OF A SENATOR TO THE CHAIR

1. In the absence of the Vice President, the Senate shall choose a President pro tempore, who shall hold the office and execute the duties thereof during the pleasure of the Senate and until another is elected or his term of office as a Senator expires.

2. In the absence of the Vice President, and pending the election of a President pro tempore, the Acting President pro tempore or the Secretary of the Senate, or in his absence the Assistant Secretary, shall perform the duties of the Chair.

3. The President pro tempore shall have the right to name in open Senate or, if absent, in writing, a Senator to perform the duties of the Chair, including the signing of duly enrolled bills and joint resolutions but such substitution shall not extend beyond an adjournment, except by unanimous consent; and the Senator so named shall have the right to name in open session, or, if absent, in writing, a Senator to perform the duties of the Chair, but not to extend beyond an adjournment, except by unanimous consent.

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