The actual proceedings that occur on the floor of the United States Senate and the discourse that occurs between the members of the Senate are known as the debate. Debates can take on many forms, but all deal with legislative aspects or matters that are brought upon the Senate, such as bills and law changes. The Senate actually has in placed codified rules that govern the process of a senatorial debate, which outlines for certain procedures and appropriate actions to be taken by Senators in order to part-take in a debate.
During debates, senators may only participate if they are called upon the presiding officer. The presiding officer can be the President of the Senate or any other senator he may choose to appoint with the responsibility of overlooking the procedures of the debate. A Senator may be recognized by rising to his feet. Under procedural standards, the presiding officers are charged with recognizing the first senator to rise to speak.
This practice, in reality, gives little control to the presiding officer regarding the actual course a debate may actually take. Both the Majority Leader and Minority Leader are given precedence and priority in the case that he/she rises at the same time as another Senator to be recognized to speak. All members of the Senate that rise to participate in the debate and deliver a speech must all address the presiding officer.
The speeches themselves are not to be addressed directly to any other member of the Senate, regardless if it is in direct response to that particular Senator’s speech. The presiding officer is to be addressed as “Mr. President” or “Madam President.” When speaking in relation to other members of the Senate, they are not to be referred directly by name.
Senators are referred to by their actual position, or by the state they represent. All addresses and speeches are delivered from a Senator’s desk. No Senator is allowed to interject or interrupt while another Senator has the floor and is addressing the chamber. If an interruption is sought, a Senator must first rise and be given consent to interrupt.
The consent for an interjection is addressed to the presiding officer, who will either allow it or restrict it. It is important to note that even though there is no legislation regarding time limits on the speeches of Senators, they can only speak a total of two times on any particular topic on the same legislative day.
Therefore, an actual legislative day may in fact be longer than a normal, calendar day. The presiding officer is also charged with the ability to bring a Senator that has violated the rules of the Senate during policy debate.
He may call for that Senator to be brought to order, at which time he/she must take his/her seat, and can not proceed or re-engage in the policy debate without a motion that he/she be allowed to proceed. Such motion, if granted, is not subject to debate. Appeals can only be made in the form of a Senator asking the presiding officer for another member of the Senate to be brought to order.