WASHINGTON, D.C. – An issue that hits close to home for many people in the Ozarks, the cost of insulin, was up for debate in the U.S. Senate Sunday. Democratic Georgia Senator Raphael Warnock proposed to cap out-of-pocket insulin costs at $35 a month for people who are not covered by Medicare.
At the center of the debate surrounding the proposal was a ruling by the parliamentarian, which cited a rule against setting prices in the commercial market with a simple majority vote. Democrats in the Senate decided to waive that objection and put the issue to a vote anyway. It was struck down in a 57-43 vote.
Republicans such as John Thune said the effort to overrule the parliamentarian undermined the integrity of Senate rules.
Since the parliamentarian played such a big role in Sunday’s vote, Ozarks First is looking at what role the parliamentarian plays in the U.S. House and Senate.
The Office of the Parliamentarian provides expert advice on each chamber’s rules and precedents. This has been a role in the House since 1927 and in the Senate since 1935.
The parliamentarian offers nonpartisan advice on the complicated intricacies of the legislative process. This person and their assistants are experts on everything from day-to-day procedures to questions that come up about proposals. Someone from the Office of the Parliamentarian is on the House or Senate floor at all times when each chamber is in session.
Neither the parliamentarian in the House nor the Senate has the power to make decisions that are binding. They only offer advice that lawmakers can accept or reject. This is how, in the case of the issue of the insulin cap that came up on Sunday, Democrats chose to overrule the parliamentarian and take a vote anyway.
Read more about the position in this document from Congressional Research Service.