Comparing USA to parliamentary governments.

Oct 2009
551
106
Cliffside Park, NJ
Comparing USA to parliamentary governments.

Leaders of USA's two legislative chambers are the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, and the majority leader of the Senate, Mitch McConnell. I suppose they each can refrain, if not effectively prevent a question from coming to a vote on the floor of their respective chambers.
Does a prime minister or anyone else have such similar power in parliament?

Respectfully, Supposn
 

RNG

Forum Staff
Apr 2013
42,068
30,519
La La Land North
The government, the phrase used to describe the party with the most members in the house and the Prime Minister will often just choose to not present a bill for a vote. And like with so many other governments, ours has, over the years had the power migrate from the members to the Prime Minister, so it is largely his decision.

Basically the media is our only hope of embarrassing a government to bring a bill to a vote that they don't want to see. If it has public support that can be very bad for them come the next election. There seem to still be less ideologs in Canada than in the US although that too is eroding.
 
Oct 2009
551
106
Cliffside Park, NJ
RNG, my question or questions were: (1) within the existing parliamentary governments, do the prime ministers or anyone else have powers similar to powers of USA's Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives or the majority leader of the U.S. Senate?

(2)I've assumed they each can refrain, if not effectively prevent a question from coming to a vote on the floor of their respective chambers. Are my suppositions essentially correct?

Respectfully, Supposn
 
Mar 2008
9,634
4,896
australia
it depends on who has the votes. there are a lot of parliamentary democracies around the world. some, like canada, australia, india, england, japan, there are 2 major parties, one broadly left wing, one broadly right wing, and one of them will win a majority in the house of representatives, and they simply have the numbers to do pretty much whatever they like. its rare for anyone to vote against their own party. there may or may not be a second house (a senate or something equivalent), the second house doesnt have the same power as the house of representatives.

in others, like france, germany, italy, there are many parties in the lower house, nobody ever gets close to a majority in their own right, and there is always a coalition government made of more than one party. together they can get a majority of votes on the floor of parliament, but such coalitions can be unstable and require a lot of backroom deals and compromise in order to function well.

in australias case, there is a speaker of the house of representatives, but they dont have much power, they just enforce the rules of the house. its supposed to be an impartial position, a neutral third party to make sure the debates in the chamber go smooth, but its always a member of whichever party has the majority and they use the rules of the house to their advantage. thankfully it isnt a lot of power. the prime minister is the one with the power, but the prime minister is also simply the individual selected by the party to be their leader, and that can change at any time.several times in the last few years in australia, the prime minister was considered not popular enough, so the party had a meeting and had an internal vote for the leadership, and a new prime minister appeared.

there is also a leader of the senate, but they dont have any significant power outside of the actual senate chamber. the position of 'leader of the government in the senate' is pretty irrelevant unless you are another senator.

every parliamentary democracy is different. england doesnt have a senate, they have a second chamber called the house of lords. the members of that chamber are actual lords, the hereditary title holders of englands aristocracy, they automatically become members of the second house of government and any legislation has to get through them before its law.
 
Mar 2008
9,634
4,896
australia
a direct answer to your questions: its depends on the details of that particular parliament.

in australia, the prime minister is more comparable to the president than the speaker of the house. they effectively command the party that commands the parliament. the speaker of australias house of reps is a very different role to the speaker of americas house.

usually there is one major party with an outright majority on the floor of the house. they can simply take a vote on whether or not to consider any particular legislation and every member of the party votes no, so it isnt discussed. very occasionally there will be maverick individuals who "cross the floor" and vote against their own party, this is usually political suicide. also very occasionally there is no party with an outright majority, and there are a few independents who hold the "balance of power". they usually officially side with one party or another and create a stable minority government.

there is also a gentlemans agreement between the 2 major parties that if one member is sick, or for some reason cannot be present to vote, the other party has one of their members abstain from the vote. there is no legal requirement to do so, simply an agreement.

the senate is a very different place, and very different to your senate. in the senate there is never a majority, there senators from the 2 major parties, but there are also many from minor parties and many independent senators. our senate doesnt have as much power as americas senate, its sometimes referred to as 'the house of review' because its primary purpose is to review legislation passed by the house of reps, not implement its own legislation. like america, the smaller states carry equal weight to the big states.

both houses have a period called "question time" when any member can ask any other member any question without notice. the speaker cannot block the questions and the target of the question is required to answer. its a great opportunity for the opposition to ask probing questions of senior goverment ministers, or anyone else, about any policy, or anything else. its real representative democracy in action.
 
Oct 2009
551
106
Cliffside Park, NJ
it depends on who has the votes. there are a lot of parliamentary democracies around the world. some, like canada, australia, india, england, japan, there are 2 major parties, one broadly left wing, one broadly right wing, and one of them will win a majority in the house of representatives, and they simply have the numbers to do pretty much whatever they like. its rare for anyone to vote against their own party. there may or may not be a second house (a senate or something equivalent), the second house doesnt have the same power as the house of representatives.

in others, like france, germany, italy, there are many parties in the lower house, nobody ever gets close to a majority in their own right, and there is always a coalition government made of more than one party. together they can get a majority of votes on the floor of parliament, but such coalitions can be unstable and require a lot of backroom deals and compromise in order to function well.

in australias case, there is a speaker of the house of representatives, but they dont have much power, they just enforce the rules of the house. its supposed to be an impartial position, a neutral third party to make sure the debates in the chamber go smooth, but its always a member of whichever party has the majority and they use the rules of the house to their advantage. thankfully it isnt a lot of power. the prime minister is the one with the power, but the prime minister is also simply the individual selected by the party to be their leader, and that can change at any time.several times in the last few years in australia, the prime minister was considered not popular enough, so the party had a meeting and had an internal vote for the leadership, and a new prime minister appeared. ...
Hot Dragon, I thank you for your responses.
I understand that parliamentary governments' constitutions differ, and their numbers of legislative chambers may differ. The constitutional and statutory laws and regulations, and customary precedences governing individual legislative chambers, the rules and customary precedences within each individual legislative chamber likely differ to some extents.

That's why when we're discussing comparative differences between USA and parliamentary governments, we try to precedent our remarks to which nation, and which government's chambers we're referring to.

But my questions are generally, or among specific governments' legislative chambers, what, (if any individuals or small pacts of individuals) have the effective powers to determine what may or may not be voted on by the general membership of each individual legislative chambers?

Respectfully, Supposn
 
Oct 2009
551
106
Cliffside Park, NJ
... in australias case, there is a speaker of the house of representatives, but they dont have much power, they just enforce the rules of the house. its supposed to be an impartial position, a neutral third party to make sure the debates in the chamber go smooth, but its always a member of whichever party has the majority and they use the rules of the house to their advantage. thankfully it isnt a lot of power. the prime minister is the one with the power, but the prime minister is also simply the individual selected by the party to be their leader, and that can change at any time.several times in the last few years in australia, the prime minister was considered not popular enough, so the party had a meeting and had an internal vote for the leadership, and a new prime minister appeared.

there is also a leader of the senate, but they dont have any significant power outside of the actual senate chamber. the position of 'leader of the government in the senate' is pretty irrelevant unless you are another senator.

every parliamentary democracy is different. england doesnt have a senate, they have a second chamber called the house of lords. the members of that chamber are actual lords, the hereditary title holders of englands aristocracy, they automatically become members of the second house of government and any legislation has to get through them before its law.
Hot Dragon, this is in regard to who doesn't, rather who does have power.
As your description and remarks of (what I assume to be Australia's) Senate's power state, I agree with your assessment that the Australian Senate has less effective power than the USA Senate which (due to it's resonsibility to advise, and power to deny confirmation of U.S. treaties and judges) has powers exceeding that of the U.S. House of Representatives. An act, (i.e. a “set” of laws) cannot “pass” through the U.S. Congress unless both individual chambers' votes, they resolve and agree to exactly the same mutually drafted wordage of the act.

The President of the U.S. Senate is the Vice-Present of the United States. He presides as judge of all the Senate's rules in actual practice on the Senate “floor”. He's only permitted to vote to “break” a tie “Senate floor” vote and he's prohibitted from participating in Senate debates.

In the USA we to some extents generally agree with our nation's first vice president, (John Adam's) opinion of his office; “the vice presidency is the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagenation conceived”.

Respectfully, Supposn
 
Mar 2008
9,634
4,896
australia
in australia, in the house of reps

any member can introduce a 'bill' onto the floor of parliament for debate. once the bill is introduced its merits, or lack thereof, can be debated by any member of the chamber, anyone is allowed to speak on the issue, suggest changes, suggest alternatives, at some stage the speaker announces its time for a vote. every member physically present votes. anyone who is physically absent for any reason doesnt record a vote. if there is a tie the speaker casts the deciding vote.

if the bill is something the government doesnt want discussed, the speaker (who is a member of the ruling party) calls a vote straight away, the vote is NO and the bill dies. in reality everyone knows this and they dont bother introducing a bill that isnt going to go anywhere. unless its a good stunt. a few years ago the opposition introduced a bill to leagalise same sex marriage, the government immediately silenced it, and then the opposition took it to the media to show how out of touch the government was.

once the house of reps agrees on a bill, it is handed to the senate. the senate debates it a second time, adding amendments as they see fit. this is their primary function as the house of review. often they sent a bill back to the house of reps with suggested changes to be debated a second time, sometimes a third time. the senate has no role in selection of judges, treaties, etc.

once the senate approves the bill it becomes law.

a senator is also allowed to introduce a bill to the senate for debate, it eventually is also debated in the house of reps. however, a senator can only introduce a bill that does not require funding. if it requires dedicated government spending, a "money bill", it can only be introduced by a member of the house of reps.

"question time" there are no limits. its a great opportunity for the opposition to grill the government on those issues the government doesnt want debated. they cannot stop the opposition asking questions and they are required to answer. occasionally the government will try to avoid question time, the speaker will invoke some obscure rule and end it early, or particular individuals will be absent from parliament. when this happens, the media call them out and the government loses a lot of credibility. the people like the fact that our lawmakers cannot avoid scrutiny. question time is often televised and it can actually be quite fun.

australia also has a cabinet with ministers for health, education, defense, trade, etc. the leader of cabinet is of course the prime minister. every minister must be a member of the house of reps or a senator.
 
Oct 2009
551
106
Cliffside Park, NJ
in australia, in the house of reps ...
... "question time" there are no limits. its a great opportunity for the opposition to grill the government on those issues the government doesnt want debated. they cannot stop the opposition asking questions and they are required to answer. occasionally the government will try to avoid question time, the speaker will invoke some obscure rule and end it early, or particular individuals will be absent from parliament. when this happens, the media call them out and the government loses a lot of credibility. the people like the fact that our lawmakers cannot avoid scrutiny. question time is often televised and it can actually be quite fun.

australia also has a cabinet with ministers for health, education, defense, trade, etc. the leader of cabinet is of course the prime minister. every minister must be a member of the house of reps or a senator.
Hot Dragon, I suppose the Parliaments of the United Kingdom and the Austrailian Parliament each operate in compliance to a written document that serves a function similar to that of the USA's Constitution? No act within the U.S. May be contrary to our constitution and it requires some more extraodinary proceedures to amend our constitutuion.
As a Yank, I envy parliamentary governments' “question times”. Is it established and complies to law or is it's existence depend only upon precedence?

Respectfully, Supposn
/////////////////////////////////////

Excerpted from Question time - Wikipedia :

"President George H. W. Bush once said of PMQs, "I count my blessings for the fact I don't have to go into that pit that John Major stands in, nose-to-nose with the opposition, all yelling at each other."[8] In 2008, Senator John McCain (Republican Party nominee for President of the United States in the 2008 presidential election) stated his intention, if elected, to create a Presidential equivalent of the British conditional convention of Prime Minister's Questions.[9] In a policy speech on May 15, 2008, which outlined a number of ideas, McCain said, "I will ask Congress to grant me the privilege of coming before both houses to take questions, and address criticism, much the same as the Prime Minister of Great Britain [sic] appears regularly before the House of Commons."[10]

George F. Will of The Washington Post criticized the proposal in an op-ed piece, saying that a presidential question time would endanger separation of powers as the President of the United States, unlike the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, is not a member of the legislature. Will ended the piece by saying, "Congress should remind a President McCain that the 16 blocks separating the Capitol from the White House nicely express the nation's constitutional geography."[11] ".
/////////////////////////////////////
 
Mar 2008
9,634
4,896
australia
Hot Dragon, I suppose the Parliaments of the United Kingdom and the Austrailian Parliament each operate in compliance to a written document that serves a function similar to that of the USA's Constitution? No act within the U.S. May be contrary to our constitution and it requires some more extraodinary proceedures to amend our constitutuion.
As a Yank, I envy parliamentary governments' “question times”. Is it established and complies to law or is it's existence depend only upon precedence?

Respectfully, Supposn
/////////////////////////////////////

Excerpted from Question time - Wikipedia :

"President George H. W. Bush once said of PMQs, "I count my blessings for the fact I don't have to go into that pit that John Major stands in, nose-to-nose with the opposition, all yelling at each other."[8] In 2008, Senator John McCain (Republican Party nominee for President of the United States in the 2008 presidential election) stated his intention, if elected, to create a Presidential equivalent of the British conditional convention of Prime Minister's Questions.[9] In a policy speech on May 15, 2008, which outlined a number of ideas, McCain said, "I will ask Congress to grant me the privilege of coming before both houses to take questions, and address criticism, much the same as the Prime Minister of Great Britain [sic] appears regularly before the House of Commons."[10]

George F. Will of The Washington Post criticized the proposal in an op-ed piece, saying that a presidential question time would endanger separation of powers as the President of the United States, unlike the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, is not a member of the legislature. Will ended the piece by saying, "Congress should remind a President McCain that the 16 blocks separating the Capitol from the White House nicely express the nation's constitutional geography."[11] ".
/////////////////////////////////////
yes we have a constitution, and likewise any act that occurs in australia must follow the constitution. although, much of our constitution is defining the structure of the parliament, the rules the government has to follow, rather than laws that everyone has to follow. it can be changed but it is frighteningly difficult, it has only been done a few times.

the constitution gives each house of parliament the right to create "standing orders". the accumulated standing orders are the rules that house of parliament operates by. they can be changed, if with difficulty, so that parliament remains up to date. they must be followed, it is the duty of the speaker to ensure they are followed.there are standing orders that outline how question time operates, so it isnt written into the constitution but also it isnt just precedence, its the rules. you might be thinking "the government can just change the rules to suit them" but in reality that doesnt happen, there would be too much of an outcry.

any member of the house can interject with a "point of order", rather like a court room lawyer interjecting with "objection!", if they think a standing order has been broken. this is largely what creates the messy, argumentative chamber that bush was glad to avoid. it can be great television.

question time can also be legally abused. a member of the government can ask another member of the government a question like "can the minister bring the house up to date on the reforms being passed......" and then the minister can read out their entirely pre-prepared speech about their great reforms. questions like these are called "dorothies" because, like in the wizard of oz, you always knew the answer.