The U.S. Congress is the legislative body of the United States of America. It is divided into the Senate and the House of Representatives. Members of both houses of Congress are allowed to speak on the floors of their respective chambers, with distinct rules and protocols governing each chamber.
House of Representatives
Representatives must be recognized by the Chair – usually the Speaker of the House, President Pro Tempore or Chairman of the Committee of the Whole. The Chair has the authority to ask the members what they wish to speak about and chooses to recognize them. When speaking, representatives must address the Chair – and only the Chair – and must follow established parliamentary protocol such as refraining from making personal attacks on other representatives or the president. Representatives are offered a limited amount of time to speak. These time limits range from one minute to one hour.
Senators face fewer restrictions in their ability to speak on the floor of the Senate. The presiding officer of the Senate – the vice president – is expected to recognize any senator who wishes to speak. Further, senators can speak as long as they wish and are even allowed to speak about things other than the business at hand. Senators sometimes make long, unrelated speeches – called filibusters – in order to delay a vote. Interrupting a filibuster requires 60 or more senators to vote for "cloture," which ends debate on the topic being discussed.
Dell Markey is a full-time journalist. When he isn't writing business spotlights for local community papers, he writes and has owned and operated a small business.