Sometimes referred to as “the courtesy of the Senate,” it is a general practice – with no written rule – applied to consideration of executive nominations. Generally, it means that nominations from a state are not to be confirmed unless they have been approved by the senators of the president’s party of that state, with other senators following their colleagues’ lead in the attitude they take toward consideration of such nominations. Senatorial courtesy also applies to sitting or former senators who are nominated, allowing them to be quickly confirmed.
In this cartoon that ran in Puck on October 18, 1893, cartoonist Louis Dalrymple expanded the term to include the willingness of senators to indulge long-winded colleagues. During the 19th century, the Senate had no cloture rule and therefore no means to cut off senators who wished to delay or kill a bill by talking it to death, better known as a filibuster. In this instance, William M. Stewart, a Republican senator from Nevada representing the silver mine owners, filibusters against repeal of the Sherman Silver Purchase Act. With a pile of reference books before him, the senator orates to a Chamber filled with sleeping legislators.
Senatorial Courtesy, Senate Art and History
Also see § 8.120, Congress and the Courts: Exercising Congressional Powers, in Congressional Deskbook.
The Surprise Election and Political Assassination of President James A. Garfield (2003)
- Seniority / Junior Senator / Senior Senator (CongressionalGlossary.com)
- Blue-Slip Resolution / Star Print / Blue Slip (CongressionalGlossary.com)
- “Role of Home State Senators in the Selection of Lower Federal Court Judges,” CRS Report RL34405 (81-page PDF)
- “Evolution of the Senate’s Role in the Nomination and Confirmation Process: A Brief History,” CRS Report RL31948 (19-page PDF)
- “In Sessions hearing, ‘senatorial courtesy’ is lost in the tumult of Trump,” Washington Post, January 10, 2017
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