A mild amusement of ours, very mild, is to watch the pro forma sessions of the U.S. Senate to see how quickly they can be dispensed with. These are the sessions the Majority Leader has scheduled every third day to prevent the President from making recess appointments. They’ve attracted media attention in the past (here and here, for example) because of the parliamentary maneuver and the brevity of the sessions. We missed Tuesday’s session, presided over by Sen. Jack Reed, by judging by the Daily Digest, pretty brief.
Today, 24 seconds. Very expeditious.
But who was that presiding? We thought we recognized all the women Democratic Senators. Who is that? Sen. Blanche Lincoln?
No, it turns out the Senate was presided over by Secretary of the Senate Nancy Erickson. So apparently you don’t have to have a U.S. Senator presiding to convene the Senate. Who knew? Wonder why the Majority just doesn’t sub Secretary Erickson in all the time.
Sen. Reed’s appointment accompanied the reading of this statement (Page S8081):
To the Senate:
President pro tempore.
Under the provisions of rule I, section 3, of the Standing Rules of the Senate, I hereby appoint the Honorable JACK REED, a Senator from the State of Rhode Island, to perform the duties of the Chair.
ROBERT C. BYRD
President pro tempore
And here’s the Standing Rule the statement refers to. (See below.) Yes, it does say the Secretary of the Senate can be appointed to preside, but as we read it, only in the “absence of the Vice President, and pending the election of a President pro tempore.”
Anyway, just one of those interesting subtleties of the legislative process…
Standing Rules of the Senate
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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