I just got back from a trip to Britain; my first overseas. While I was there, I was lucky enough to be able to go see the British Parliament, the equivalent to the U.S. Congress in many ways and the Scottish Parliament, or something more similar to a state legislature. The differences between the debates I saw there and what goes on here seemed stark to me.
First, the House of Commons (think U.S. House) and the House of Lords (U.S. Senate, though different in many ways) are quite a raucous bunch. When I was there, global warming was the issue of the day, and the members were not afraid to express (sometimes loudly) what they thought of the questions or responses given. Often members were booed, or cheered, depending on the opinion expressed. After each answer, members must stand up hoping for a chance to be recognized to ask the next question. In the House of Commons, much like Congress and often the Oklahoma Legislature, many members aren’t in the chamber during debate unless there is a vote. In fact, all of the 646 Members of Parliament (they are called MPs) cannot even fit into the Commons chamber, which only sits 427 people at any one time.
As for the House of Lords, it is a group of unelected members, many of whom are there because of their last name and the title that comes with it. In recent years, lords can also be appointed for their life, and the numbers have swelled to 750 members. Again, not even a quarter of the members were there the day I saw them debating.
On the days I saw the proceedings in both England and Scotland, government officials were called before the members to answer pointed questions about their performance and budgeting. I think the Oklahoma Legislature, and state officials, could stand a little more of this type of open questioning.
Overall, the atmosphere was adversarial, with clear divisions between the government (or what they call the majority party) and the other minority members. Some things in politics are universal I suppose.