On the Decision of the Chair PN55: Neil M. Gorsuch, of Colorado, to be an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States
This was the "nuclear option" vote, the second of four significant votes on the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to be a Supreme Court Justice. In this vote, the Senate changed its rules for cloture votes on Supreme Court nominations from requiring a 3/5ths threshold of elected senators to a simple majority vote.
Why the vote was taken
A vote on cloture is a vote to limit further debate and move to an up-or-down vote, in other words to prevent a filibuster. In a previous vote, cloture on Gorsuch's nomination failed the 3/5ths threshold. In this vote the Senate changed its rules so that a subsequent cloture vote would succeed.
McConnell's point of order
Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Majority Leader, raised a point of order that the Senate's rules change on November 21, 2013 set the requirement for cloture votes to "a [simple] majority vote on all nominations." The rules change by the Democrats on November 21, 2013, following numerous Republican filibusters of President Obama's nominations, in fact only changed the cloture requirement from 3/5ths to a simple majority for presidential nominations except Supreme Court Nominations. (It also did not change the threshold for filibusters on bills.) McConnell raised the point of order strategically, knowing that his point of order would be ruled against by the chair, so that he could force a vote.
The chair ruled against McConnell.
What yea and nay mean
In this vote, the Senate is voting on the ruling of the chair. A vote in favor was a vote to keep the chair's ruling that the November 21, 2013 rules change did not apply to Supreme Court nominations. A vote against was a vote to adopt McConnell's contention in the point of order. Although the chair's ruling was an accurate understanding of the November 21, 2013 rules change, this vote was intended as a means to change the Senate's rules going forward. The vote required a simple majority.
The vote failed, meaning the chair's ruling was overruled by the senators present, and McConnell's statement was adopted as the Senate's new rule. The new rule is that cloture votes on all presidential nominations require a simple majority to succeed, rather than the old rule of 3/5ths of elected senators (prior to November 21, 2013 for all cloture votes, and after just for Supreme Court nominations). The threshold for cloture votes on legislation remains at 3/5ths.
In the subsequent Senate vote #110, the failed cloture vote was retaken under the new rule. Gorsuch was confirmed in the final vote the following day.
Decision of Chair Not Sustained. Simple Majority Required. Source: senate.gov.
The Nay votes represented 45% of the country’s population by apportioning each state’s population to its voting senators.
What you can do
“Aye” and “Yea” mean the same thing, and so do “No” and “Nay”. Congress uses different words in different sorts of votes.
The U.S. Constitution says that bills should be decided on by the “yeas and nays” (Article I, Section 7). Congress takes this literally and uses “yea” and “nay” when voting on the final passage of bills.
All Senate votes use these words. But the House of Representatives uses “Aye” and “No” in other sorts of votes.
|Yea||NV||D||Cortez Masto, Catherine||0.26917501554249723|
|Yea||MD||D||Van Hollen, Chris||0.22079226382909278|
|Nay||LA||R||Kennedy, John Neely||0.6867512976452176|
Statistically Notable Votes
Statistically notable votes are the votes that are most surprising, or least predictable, given how other members of each voter’s party voted and other factors.
How well do you understand this vote? Use this study guide to find out.
You can find answers to most of the questions below here on the vote page.
What was the procedure for this vote?
- What was this vote on?
Not all votes are meant to pass legislation. In the Senate some votes are not about legislation at all, since the Senate must vote to confirm presidential nominations to certain federal positions.
You can learn more about the various motions used in Congress at EveryCRSReport.com. If you aren’t sure what the Senate was voting on, try seeing if it’s on this list.
What is your analysis of this vote?
- What trends do you see in this vote?
- How did your senators vote?
- How much of the United States population is represented by the yeas?
Members of Congress side together for many reasons beside being in the same political party, especially so for less prominent legislation or legislation specific to a certain region. What might have determined how the roll call came out in this case? Does it look like Members of Congress voted based on party, geography, or some other reason?
There are two votes here that should be more important to you than all the others. These are the votes cast by your senators, which are meant to represent you and your community. Do you agree with how your senators voted? Why do you think they voted the way they did?
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GovTrack displays the percentage of the United States population represented by the yeas on some Senate votes just under the vote totals. We do this to highlight how the people of the United States are represented in the Senate. Since each state has two senators, but state populations vary significantly, the individuals living in each state have different Senate representation. For example, California’s population of near 40 million is given the same number of senators as Wyoming’s population of about 600,000.
Do the senators who voted yea represent a majority of the people of the United States? Does it matter?
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