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Dems Update US House ‘Decorum Rules’

An update to the House rules of decorum, from the professional nanny, Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY):

Decorum in the House and in Committees

Under clause 1(a)(1) of Rule XI, the rules of the House are the rules of its committees as far as applicable. Consequently, Members should comport themselves with the rules of decorum and debate in the House and in Committees specifically with regard to references to the President of the United States as stated in Section 370 of the House Rules and Manual.

As stated in Cannon’s Precedents, on January 27, 1909, the House adopted a report in response to improper references in debate to the President. That report read in part as follows:

“It is… the duty of the House to require its Members in speech or debate to preserve that proper restraint which will permit the House to conduct its business in an orderly manner and without unnecessarily and unduly exciting animosity among its Members or antagonism from those other branches of the Government with which the House is correlated.”

As a guide for debate, it is permissible in debate to challenge the President on matters of policy. The difference is one between political criticism and personally offensive criticism. For example, a Member may assert in debate that an incumbent President is not worthy of re-election, but in doing so should not allude to personal misconduct. By extension, a Member may assert in debate that the House should conduct an inquiry, or that a President should not remain in office.

Under section 370 of the House Rules and Manual it has been held that a Member could:

  • refer to the government as “something hated, something oppressive.”
  • refer to the President as “using legislative or judicial pork.”
  • refer to a Presidential message as a “disgrace to the country.”
  • refer to unnamed officials as “our half-baked nitwits handling foreign affairs.”

Likewise, it has been held that a member could not:

  • call the President a “liar.”
  • call the President a “hypocrite.”
  • describe the President’s veto of a bill as “cowardly.”
  • charge that the President has been “intellectually dishonest.”
  • refer to the President as “giving aid and comfort to the enemy.”
  • refer to alleged “sexual misconduct on the President’s part.”

However, the Senate rules on decorum and debate do not prohibit personal references to the President. Senate Rule XIX governing decorum and debate is applied only to fellow Senators and “does not extend to the President, the Vice President, or Administration officials and a Senator cannot be called to order under rule XIX for comments or remarks about them…” (Senate Procedure, p. 741). The Senate rules also provide that Jefferson’s Manual is not part of the Senate rules (Ibid, p.754).

By contrast, the rules of the House specifically provide that Jefferson’s Manual does govern the proceedings of the House where applicable (Clause 1 of Rule XXVIII). Section 370 of Jefferson’s Manual states that the rule in Parliament prohibiting Members from “speak{ing} irreverently or seditiously against the King” has been interpreted to prohibit personal references against the President. In addition, Speakers of the House have consistently reiterated, and the House has voted, to support the proposition that it is not in order in debate to engage in personalities toward the President. The Chair enforces this rule of decorum on his own initiative.

Compare and contrast this revision with the earlier (original?) list of rules from the US House Of Representatives Committee On Rules Majority Office:



  • Address themselves solely and directly to the Chair. They may not address other Members, individuals in the gallery, or persons who might be observing through the media.
  • Refer to Members by state, not by name.
  • Avoid characterizing another Member’s personal intent or motives and discussing personalities.
  • Refrain from speaking disrespectfully of the Speaker, other Members, the President or Vice President.
  • Refrain from referring to the official conduct of other Members where such conduct is not under consideration by way of a report of the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct or as a question of the privilege of the House.
  • Refrain from referring to the specific votes of particular Senators.
  • Refrain from using profane or vulgar language.
  • Avoid walking in the well when a Member is speaking.
  • Ensure that all handouts distributed on the floor or adjacent rooms comport with the rules of propriety for spoken words, and that all handouts bear the name of the authorizing Member.
  • Refrain from eating, smoking, or using electronic equipment, including cellular phones or lap top computers, on the floor.
  • Wear appropriate business attire.

NOTE — Debate which violates the rules of decorum may result in a Member’s words being taken down.

We suspect these rules have been honored more in the breach, especially the item:

Refrain from speaking disrespectfully of the Speaker, other Members, the President or Vice President.

Weren’t there motions in Congress to de-fund the office of the Vice Presidency because Mr. Cheney was so evil.

This article was posted by Steve on Wednesday, September 16th, 2009. Comments are currently closed.

9 Responses to “Dems Update US House ‘Decorum Rules’”

  1. Rusty Shackleford says:

    It bears repeating that when rep Joe Wilson pointed out that Blammo was lying, the house was not officially in session. Therefore the rules do not strictly apply. And again, he wasn’t being disrespectful at all. When someone necessarily points out that the ongoing bloviating by a president is a lie…then I think he’s upholding his sworn duty to the Constitution of the United States.

    The one thing that works against the democrats is that they will have to now abide by the same rules when there’s a republican in the white house again. Wonder how that’ll work out for them….

  2. proreason says:

    Proreason says:

    the President ia a “liar.”
    the President ia a “hypocrite.”
    the President’s actiois are “cowardly.”
    the President is “intellectually dishonest.”
    the President is continually “giving aid and comfort to the enemy.”

    But I disagree there is “sexual misconduct on the President’s part.” by this President with ThunderButt. But I’m not so sure about his conduct with Drooling Barney and Rahm the Impaler

    But for a person deliberately trying to destroy a country and ruin the lives of hundreds of millioins of people, these things are hardly worth mentioning.

    • TwilightZoned says:

      TwilightZoned says:

      The president is a jackass.

      If it’s acceptable for him to use, the term is acceptable. After all, he IS the president. Think I’ll e-mail Joe.

  3. Confucius says:

    Who knew a Democrat could do comedy?

    No one is going to read these rules. They don’t even read their own legislation!

  4. canary says:

    These rules were adopted from the old UK in reference in to treating Kings.

  5. Liberals Demise says:

    When a Republican sits in the WH they will change the format to suit their whim.
    Liberals Demise says the prez is a two faced lying jerk with no knowledge of running a Lemonade stand much less a Community Organization!

    As for ACORN ……………………”T-I-M-B-E-R!!”

  6. Reality Bytes says:

    How to stand up to Libs in Congress: The “Otto Defense”


    Hey, isn’t that Al Gore? Hasn’t changed a bit.

  7. Reality Bytes says:

    How to stand up to Libs in Congress: The “Otter Defense”


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