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Elizabeth Warren, a Democratic senator, was prevented from speaking by her fellow Senate members after they claimed she had broken 'Rule 19' Section 2 which states:

  1. No Senator in debate shall, directly or indirectly, by any form of words impute to another Senator or to other Senators any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming a Senator.

Does this effectively bar criticism, factual or not, of a senator by fellow senators?

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    As long as nobody gets caned on a senate floor, it's all fine (not kidding. US senators have been known to resort to physical violence upon one another, in the less gentle past). – user4012 Feb 9 '17 at 18:35
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    In an over-simplified form, yes. Its meant to be a civility rule. The debates are not to attack other senators, they are to debate other policies. – David Grinberg Feb 9 '17 at 18:43
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    @DavidGrinberg - and now, I'm imagining CSPAN, with every senator with pasted-on GIF of a little SE style "rude" flag on them. – user4012 Feb 9 '17 at 18:44
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    Protip: small "d" means she's in favor of voting and other forms of representative government; capital "D" means she's part of the Donkey Party – K Dog Feb 9 '17 at 18:54
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    @BradFord Yeah, there are many cases where multi-questions is fine, but in this case it would have made it hard to make a good answer to your quesiton. – David Grinberg Feb 9 '17 at 18:57
13

In essence, yes

The details of rule 19 largely deal with debate format. More specifically, they define how the senate maintains civility. As you mentioned, the specific rule cited against Warren was part Rule 19 part 2:

  1. No Senator in debate shall, directly or indirectly, by any form of words impute to another Senator or to other Senators any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming a Senator.

Note I am not discussing if the application against Warren was correct or not here, or the consistency of its usage

The idea here is simple: the Senate is a body for debating policy and legislation, not bickering and personal attacks. Since there is a very broad ideological spectrum in the Senate it's fair to assume that there will be some bad blood over the years. It would not be efficient governance if Senator A spent all his time calling Senator B a poopy head instead of debating how Senator B's policies are bad.

This is why if you ever watch the Senate debates on CSPAN you will never hear senators refer to each other by first name. It's always Senator Warren or The esteemed senator from Alabama. It's also why Senators always ask the Senate president for permission to do everything.

  • Yeah I noticed that. It makes sense in a way. It's not like they can't just walk out and read or say whatever they want outside to TV cameras. – Brad Ford Feb 9 '17 at 19:01
  • Might want to take on in the same answer what it means to Censure a Senator. – user11168 Feb 9 '17 at 19:24
  • Can you please use the phrase "argument ad hominem" in your answer? :) – barrycarter Feb 12 '17 at 16:54
  • impute or impugn? – Nick T Feb 15 '17 at 0:01
0

There is a Wikipedia site dealing with unparliamentary language in various countries around the world, what cannot be said by one member of a legislature against another. Unfortunately as regards the United States it is unspecific.

However in the United Kingdom's House of Commons the following expressions have been deemed to be unparliamentary, at different times. One assumes that similar expressions are unacceptable in the US Senate.

blackguard, coward, deceptive, dodgy, drunk, falsehoods, git, guttersnipe, hooligan, hypocrite, idiot, ignoramus, liar, pipsqueak, rat, swine, stoolpigeon, tart, traitor, sod, slimy, wart

In addition, accusations of 'crooked deals' or insinuation of the use of banned substances by a member are considered unparliamentary language (all attributable to Dennis Skinner).

The word 'dodgy' when used by Ed Miliband, was not however, found to be unparliamentary.

  • Although this is an informative answer, it doesn't directly address the question. I'm guessing that's why it's been downvoted. – Steve Melnikoff Feb 10 '17 at 16:11
  • Also, the "site" in question isn't a site at all, which instantly casts doubt upon the validity of the rest of it. – Monty Harder Feb 14 '17 at 20:58
  • @MontyHarder Whatever you choose to call it, it is a Wikipedia article. – WS2 Feb 14 '17 at 22:32

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