Senate Historian: Coconut Road Amendment Unprecedented

April 17, 2008 5:42 p.m.

So the Senate has voted to require the Justice Department to investigate how Rep. Don Young’s (R-AK) earmark came to be changed after the bill passed both houses of Congress. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), who was pushing a competing solution (an eight-member bicameral committee), says that sets “the troubling and bizarre precedent of turning the Attorney General into the de facto Senate and House Parliamentarian.”

And indeed, it does seem to be a first. Associate Senate Historian Donald A. Ritchie said that he couldn’t think of a prior occasion when the Senate had asked the Department to investigate a member of the House.

And Coburn’s solution didn’t have a clear precedent either, he said: while the Senate and the House have formed bicameral committees numerous times in the past to investigate scandals involving lawmakers from both houses, he couldn’t think of an instance where one house formed a committee to investigate a member solely of another house. “For the most part, most of the time, each house takes care of its own.”

This tutorial on Congressional history has been brought to you by Don Young.

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