Cited in the Epoch Times:
Even so, the flap was very much an exception to the congressional rule, according to professor Brian Alexander of Virginia’s Washington and Lee University.
Writing on the R Street Institute’s legbranch.org, Alexander said the tensions expressed in this House interchange, and the first demand in 35 years that the speaker of the House’s words be taken down, may seem a sign of the broader coarseness present in today’s U.S. politics. Yet a closer examination of the history of the words-taken-down rule suggests a more complicated reality.
Alexander culled through congressional records to determine that from the 80th Congress, which convened in January 1947, to the 112th Congress that adjourned in January 2013, there have been 251 requests by representatives that a colleague’s words be “taken down.”
That’s an average of 7.67 requests per Congress. There were no such requests in the 90th Congress, while the peak came with 28 in the 104th Congress (1995–96). Only six of the 251 requests, however, resulted in a member being silenced for the rest of the day.
“Given the low likelihood that a full sanction would ever be imposed on members for violating the decorum rules, it can be surmised that members generally accept and adhere to norms of courtesy. Consistent with qualitative findings in interviews, members are, in fact, generally courteous toward one another,” Alexander said.
Things get hot, but maybe not as much as it seems in the headlines about partisan conflict and declining public spirit.
Alexander cautions that “the long-standing norm of courtesy was struck a blow this week, but whether things will continue to get worse remains to be seen.”