I have been following Dutch politics for a while now, and what makes debates interesting is interruptions; When somebody doesn't agree with what a speaker is saying they can step up to the microphone and challenge what is being said, or ask questions to the speaker.

I have also been following US politics lately, and was watching a senate debate (as I've done a few times before). It suddenly struck me that there is nobody interrupting the speaker to ask questions or challenge what they are saying.

It seems that similar interruptions are not allowed in the US senate? I tried to find out whether that is true, but since the term "interruptions" is quite broad I've not had any success with google (I might be using the wrong term).

That leads me to my questions; Is there an alternative mechanism in the US senate that allows members to respond to/challenge each other? If so, what is it? Or otherwise, is there a specific reason why not?

I have also read some other questions on this site, including:

But that seems to be about rules against personal attacks, not factual criticism.

1 Answer 1


From the Rules of the Senate:

  1. (a) When a Senator desires to speak, he shall rise and address the Presiding Officer, and shall not proceed until he is recognized, and the Presiding Officer shall recognize the Senator who shall first address him. No Senator shall interrupt another Senator in debate without his consent, and to obtain such consent he shall first address the Presiding Officer, and no Senator shall speak more than twice upon any one question in debate on the same legislative day without leave of the Senate, which shall be determined without debate.

So the process of interrupting is to ask the presiding officer to ask the speaker to allow the interrupter to speak. And the speaker can say no. Also, if someone does speak, that person loses the opportunity to speak later on that same day without special dispensation. So Senators may want to be careful about doing so. It may be better to wait until their turn and provide any rebuttal at that time.

  • Thinking more about this, I'd like some clarification; Is a US senate interruption just a single chance for the interrupter to speak, or is there a chance for back and forth between the speaker and interrupter? (this doesn't seem to be mentioned in the rules you've linked) Commented Oct 5, 2018 at 23:51
  • 4
    The process is not designed for a back and forth. It is designed for a series of speeches. They could engage in a back and forth, but it would involve a lot of "I cede the floor to ..." And since such ceding is voluntary, they wouldn't necessarily have to cede back (although the first speaker might eventually get the remaining time back). This is debate like a debate team debates rather than how two individuals would debate. There will seldom be a back and forth because the rules don't encourage it.
    – Brythan
    Commented Oct 6, 2018 at 0:22
  • 1
    @JornVernee: Note that the "debates" you see on the floors of either House of Congress are little more than political theater. Often the other members are totally absent, and speeches are given to an empty room!
    – Kevin
    Commented Oct 6, 2018 at 2:02
  • 2
    @Kevin even if only a few other members of Congress are present, there's still cameras and press in the room. Governing in a democracy is as much about having a conversation with the people as it is with other officials. Commented Oct 6, 2018 at 6:18
  • 2
    @Justin: That's my point. They're not speaking to each other, they're speaking to the camera. So there couldn't be any back and forth like OP describes.
    – Kevin
    Commented Oct 6, 2018 at 16:26

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .