David Madore's WebLog: Gratuitous Literary Fragment #160 (legislative)

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(Thursday)

Gratuitous Literary Fragment #160 (legislative)

They made a mistake, Arthur declared at last, putting down the document. I know how to put your amendment to a vote.

He pointed a bony finger at a word in the text.

Arch-Treasurer he read. This bill creates a new duty for the Arch-Treasurer. This is their mistake. By established precedent, it means that the leader of any subgroup can request a review by the standing committee on Finance. And lodging a request for review is a privileged motion in the plenary. So when the president pro tempore opens the business of the day and before any debatable item pertaining to this bill, you must rise and make this request, and if necessary, raise a point of order to the effect that no debate can be held until the committee's review is delivered.

That's very well and good, but you are, of course aware that we have no members in the committee on Finance, so I don't see how that helps. Then I remembered: Ah, but the committee on Finance cannot review the bill. It cannot even convene! The Questors are under dispute. Are you suggesting obstruction?

I am not, Arthur explained: obstruction would not work, because the committee on Finance would be deemed to have approved the bill without further recommendation if it failed to meet. But, you see, there is a half-forgotten rule of procedure that, should a committee or subcommittee be unable to fulfill their duties, any matter for this committee can, at the behest of a single member of the bureau, be referred instead to the committee of the Whole.

The committee of the Whole…?

You're new so you have a good excuse for not knowing, but since it hasn't convened in well over a generation, even older members of this assembly have all but forgotten about it. The committee of the Whole House means that, well, the whole house sits as a committee. There used to be many provisions for this, but now only a handful of cases remain.

But how does this differ from the plenary, then? I can't get a vote there, how can I get one in the committee of the Whole?

Because committee rules apply. The committee of the Whole may consist of all members of the plenary, but it is not the plenary: the chair has no power to request a block vote or to prevent tabling of amendments.

A very elegant plan! And is there nothing the Capitoline Tower can do against it? Such as, remove references to the Arch-Treasurer?

They cannot modify the bill once entered in the Diet's records. If they withdraw it altogether and resubmit it in modified form, the doctrine of substantial similarity protects you. What they could do is withdraw it from the Diet and reintroduce it in the High Council instead. But the Arch-Chancellor distrusts the High Council too much: she won't even think of it. No, your amendment is safe.

⁂ Together with this other fragment and one yet to be written but whose title and theme you can easily guess, this is supposed to form a triptych.

And writing this turned out to be far more difficult than I expected: even with the freedom to make up the rules, figuring out a plausible situation in which an amendment might have the votes to pass in a legislative assembly but be procedurally blocked, and then inventing a (moderately interesting) procedural loophole that would make it possible to bypass the block, isn't all that easy. I ended up searching for inspiration by reading a random selection of the European Parliament's Rules of Procedure, the Companion to the Standing Orders for the House of Lords, Robert's Rules of Order, and far too many Wikipedia articles on various legislative bodies.

(I realized on this occasion that the French Wikipedia articles concerning the three assemblies of the French Consulat, namely the Tribunat, Corps législatif and Sénat conservateur, are far more detailed than last time I checked, so thanks to whoever wrote this).

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