Senatorial Courtesy (

From the Congressional Glossary – Including Legislative and Budget Terms

Senatorial Courtesy


Courtesy Service, by Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library
Courtesy Service, by Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library


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.


"Senatorial Courtesy" by Louis Dalrymple, Puck, October 18, 1893
"Senatorial Courtesy" by Louis Dalrymple, Puck, October 18, 1893


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.


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