17th January 2020
Writing: Fraser Barnes (Year 13)
Editing: Jack Webb (Year 13)
Last Friday 12 budding US Senators set off from DCGS, embarking on a unique opportunity to simulate the US Senate at Wycombe Abbey School. After intensively researching backgrounds, political positions and speeches, the Year 13 students took on the role of their delegated Senator (8 Republicans and 4 Democrats) along with 49 other delegates who had gathered in the Senate room where they would proceed to debate, argue, lobby, filibuster, vote and table bills over the course of an action-packed three days.
Part of the Wycombe Abbey Model United Nations conference, the model US Senate was a brand new aspect of MUN events, having never been trialled before, and the Challoner’s delegation was very fortunate to attend the conference.
After a brief welcome from the organisers, the Senators gathered in the ‘chamber’ where they were reminded of the official (and detailed) rules of procedure by the two chairs of the Senate - known as the President pro tempore and the clerk. Following this, the two parties caucused in separate rooms and elected their leaders and whips; in the Democrat caucus, a rousing speech from Challoner’s very own Ben Webster ensured he received an almost unanimous vote to become Minority Leader.
With party leaderships organised and a calendar of bills drafted which ordered the topic of debate for the next two days, the Senate adjourned until Saturday morning where the simulation would begin.
Starting at 9 o’clock, the Senators took their seats and proceedings began, starting with a controversial Republican bill that would stop federal funding for abortion if passed. A fascinating topic to discuss, let alone debate in a model US Senate, the bill split the Senate along party lines as Senators from both sides spoke for and against the proposed legislation. It was here that students were offered such a realistic insight into the inner workings of US politics as Senators lobbied each other, desperately trying to win enough votes to either pass or reject the bill.
After a filibuster lasting 53 minutes (a speech designed to delay a bill until it’s eventually scrapped) from myself (adopting the role of Senator Tom Udall) the abortion bill was eventually tabled and the proceedings moved onto other bills regarding pressing and current topics in US politics. Bills on gun control, the President’s ability to declare war or place tariffs, drilling in the Arctic and the construction of Trump’s wall all generated heated debate and a variety of absurd yet exciting political tactics as Senators tried desparately to get their bill passed. From the Democrats evacuating all their Senators from the chamber in order to prevent a vote occurring, or a deal being struck between the two parties to pass each other's bills only for both to then backstab each other immediately after, or even Challoner’s Matthew Levine leading an internal revolt inside his own Republican party, the weekend was full of surprises and excitement.
After hours of debating in the Chamber, the conference closed on Sunday afternoon with the awards ceremony. After Ben Webster and I were given awards for our commitment and contribution over the weekend, it was to the delight of the delegation that the award for best school was given to DCGS! The award was a fantastic reflection on how successful the conference was for the students, many of whom had never actually attended a MUN conference before, and recognised the enthusiasm of the students participating in the event.
Thanks to Mr Colquhoun for organising and coordinating the trip, and to Mr Buchanan and Mr Lennard who supervised on Saturday. A massive thank you also to Wycombe Abbey School and Dr Goddard for hosting arguably the most enriching and enjoyable conference our delegates have attended.