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Is the Parliamentarian Partisan?

- March 3, 2010

According to Politico, Republicans are worried that the Senate parliamentarian, who potentially plays a major role in reconciliation, is too close to the Democrats. This working paper by Tony Madonna shows that historically, the Senate parliamentarian has been non-partisan in the application of rules and procedures. Here is the abstract.

Scholarship on the United States Senate has demonstrated the pivotal role the presiding officer can play when asked to interpret the chambers’ rules and precedents. This study evaluates factors that influence the presiding officers’ decision-making when such questions arise. I find that partisanship was a significant influence in early senates. However, the emergence of a formal parliamentarian in the 1920s served to decrease informational asymmetries within the chamber, leading to a non-partisan application of rules and precedents.

h/t Jeff Jenkins.