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Some tips for the least experienced Senate since 1989

Well, the dust from the election has cleared (it was metaphorical dust, so clearing it did not take long) and the incoming Senate will be the least experienced since 1989. I’m sure the senators-elect are full of questions and concerns right now. But don’t fear, incoming senators reading this now. I’ve got answers to all of your questions. Relax and keep reading.

So, you got elected to the Senate? Hey, no worries; it happens to the best of us.

If you can’t clear up whatever misunderstanding put you there (can’t blame gerrymandering this time!) the only choice is to roll with it for the next six years.

But don’t fear! Here are a few answers to your questions, in Q-and-A format.

Q: What should I do?

A: Already, your inexperience is showing. If you are getting anything done, something is wrong. The Senate is not there to do things. The Senate is there to stop things from happening.

Q: What is a good amount of legislation to pass?

A: Let me tell you a story. Thomas Jefferson returned from France during the Constitutional Convention and wanted to know why they had created a Senate, and George Washington asked him, in turn, why he had poured his tea into a saucer. “To cool it,” said Jefferson. “Even so,” Washington replied, “we pour legislation into the senatorial saucer to cool it.” I am taking this story directly from Senate.gov, where they tell it as though it is something to be proud of. If you are efficiently passing lots of laws, something is wrong, and you should filibuster.

Q: Wait, should I pour hot tea into the Senate?

A: I will get back to you on that.

Q: When should I filibuster?

A: Filibustering is a great technique to gain publicity if you are thinking of campaigning for president later. It serves no other practical purpose. It comes from filibustero, a Spanish term that derives from the Dutch for a “privateer, pirate or robber who is trying to get himself to trend on Twitter.”

Q: What do I do about judicial nominees?

A: Nothing.

Q: But what if one makes it to the floor? How do I tell if he or she is a good nominee?

A: It is simple. Is the president from the same party as you? Then the nominee is a good nominee. Is the president from a different party than you are? Then the nominee is a bad nominee.

Q: But what if not confirming a nominee is slowing down the government? Isn’t an ambassador to Bangladesh something we should have? That seems like it might be important!

A: Meh.

Q: What is Vice President Biden doing here?

A: The vice president has the right to preside over the Senate or cast a tie-breaking vote.

Q: No, but what is Vice President Biden doing here?

A: Good question. Maybe he wandered in by mistake thinking someone was having a cookout.

Q: Congress as a whole has 11 percent approval, but 96.4 percent of incumbents running for reelection were elected. This seems wrong.

A: It is wrong, but it’s correct. So have fun! You might be there a while.

The Washington Post

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