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If A Rule Is Unwritten, Is It Really A Rule?

Ron Elving holds his "Office Hours," this time on Congress's unwritten rules.

In its early days, Congress wrote a series of rules and precedents — Thomas Jefferson penned a book about it — that Congress has used ever since.

But there are also unwritten rules. And it's these unwritten rules that break down when politics get excessively polarized.

Some are about helping people get along and ease tension: deferring to elders; not campaigning against other senators; speaking to each other with flowery forms of address.

Here, we take a peek in Ron's Office Hours at some of these traditions — and where they fit into today's Congress.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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