Thursday, May 21, 2020

Following the Senate: 7 things learned, 5 ways it helped

For the last few weeks I've been following the Senate closely. It has taught me several things.

1. The pattern of a Senate day's opening: • prayer, • pledge, remarks from the • President Pro Tempore, • Majority Leader, • Minority Leader, • Minority Whip, • Majority Whip. After the first three or four of those speakers, the order can vary.

2. The sound of a few more Senators' voices.

3. The issues Senators like to talk about.

4. How Senators can talk past each other. They listen to each other, and sometimes they reference that, but they don't always seem to understand each other.

5. How Senators can turn a phrase to shift the focus of the data, information, or argument in their favor. I've thought of writing a near-daily commentary just on the opening remarks of Senate leaders.

6. How any senator can suddenly call up and ask the Senate to pass legislation.

7. When C-SPAN 2 tends to replay content from leader remarks (shortly thereafter), Washington Journal (late morning, late afternoon), classical music (late morning, mid-afternoon), or silence/ambient sounds from the quiet Senate Chamber (late afternoon, evenings) to fill time when the Senate is in a quorum call.

The Senate floor really seems like the tail end of the line for the legislative process. Obviously that's where legislation passes, the formal end, but there's much of that line which comes before Senators ever appear on the floor. There's the idea, drafting, committee work, member-to-member negotiations, leadership, cross-aisle interactions, and everything involved leading up to floor action. There is public record of some of those things along the way, but even then, there is much to take to the Lord in prayer about the legislative process.

Personally, following the Senate has also helped me structure my day during this coronavirus pandemic closure.

1. Be ready to go before the Senate convenes.

2. Plan around the vote schedule. They usually take 30-60 minutes.

3. Make use of the time in between.

4. Be ready at any moment.

5. Listen very carefully when Senators start asking for things. It comes quickly and once. If you don't catch it in the moment, you'll have to wait for the Congressional Record the next day or someone else on Twitter who was listening closer or followed up with the cloak room shortly thereafter.

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