Motion to Invoke Cloture Re: Motion to Proceed to S. Res. 50
This was the first in what is expected to be a series of votes on a bill to shorten the time the Senate may debate most presidential nominees. Although this resolution was filibustered after failing to reach the necessary 3/5ths majority, it is expected that the Senate may change its rules to require a simple majority and vote again. This was the procedure used to confirm the nomination of Justice Neil Gorsuch two years ago.
Read our summary of S.Res.50 below:
How much time should the Senate have to debate most presidential nominees: 30 hours, or only two hours?
The Senate has to approve about 1,200 to 1,400 executive branch appointments made by the president. These range from prominent ones like Attorney General and Secretary of Defense, to 1,000+ lower-level positions which nonetheless play an important behind-the-scenes role in crafting federal policy.
Currently, each nominee is allowed up to 30 hours of debate on the Senate floor, an amount of time frequently maximized in recent years by senators opposing a president’s nominations.
What the legislation does
Senate Resolution 50 would shorten that debate time from 30 hours to only two hours for the vast majority of presidential nominees. The exceptions would be for Supreme Court nominees, circuit court nominees, and Cabinet-level officials.
The resolution was introduced on February 6 by Sen. James Lankford (R-OK).
What supporters say
Supporters argue that the Senate’s advice and consent role has in recent years been drawn out, elongated, and pushed to a breaking point far beyond what should be permitted.
“In the last two years, the confirmation process has been mired in unprecedented political stall tactics,” Sen. Lankford said in a press release. “The Senate nomination process needs to function efficiently again. Presidents, regardless of their party, should be able to pick their staff.”
“It’s the Senate’s role to ensure nominees are capable and qualified; we have a responsibility to provide advice and consent,” Sen. Lankford continued. Needless obstruction of that process is a failure of our duty.”
“This resolution would permanently reduce post-cloture debate time for most nominations and allow the Senate to fulfill a primary constitutional duty of advice and consent. It is time to update the Senate rules so the nomination process can function appropriately again.”
What opponents say
Opponents counter that the move is a pure partisan ploy by Senate Republicans to speed up Trump nominees, ignoring the Senate’s coequal role in debating and discussing the nominees.
The move “will remove important checks and balances from the nomination process, making it harder to properly vet but easier to confirm unqualified nominees,” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), top Democrat on the Senate Rules Committee.
“At a time of blistering rhetoric, anger, and divisiveness, this is no time to cede this chamber’s ability to do its due diligence by removing the guardrails that help ensure judicial nominees have the qualifications for lifetime appointments to the federal bench,” Klobuchar continued.
“The Senate’s constitutional duty of advise and consent is too important to turn into a mere rubber stamp.”
Odds of passage
The resolution was approved by the Senate Rules Committee on February 13 by a 10–9 vote that split along party lines.
The measure now proceeds to the full Senate, where Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) told Politico it should likely pass by end of March. If it does, it won’t need approval from the Democrat-controlled House, since it’s an internal Senate measure only applying to that chamber.
Of course, this move could come back to bite Senate Republicans in the future, if it passes and Democrats take advantage of the streamlines rules to more easily pass left-leaning judges and executive branch officials.
This vote was related to a resolution introduced by Sen. James Lankford [R-OK] on February 6, 2019, S.Res. 50: A resolution improving procedures for the consideration of nominations in the Senate..
Cloture on the Motion to Proceed Rejected. 3/5 Required. Source: senate.gov.
The Yea votes represented 47% of the country’s population by apportioning each state’s population to its voting senators.
Sen. Mitch McConnell (R), the Senate Majority Leader, voted Nay against his party.
Somtimes a party leader will vote on the winning side, even if it is against his or her position, to have the right to call for a new vote under a motion to reconsider. For more, see this explanation from The Washington Post.
We do not know the rationale behind any vote, however.
“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.
|Nay||NV||D||Cortez Masto, Catherine||0.2663294597756938|
|Nay||MD||D||Van Hollen, Chris||0.17018507510703976|
|Nay||KY||R||McConnell, Mitch *||0.7632151844679032|
|No Vote||CA||D||Harris, Kamala||0.062231871537175805|
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. For a guide to understanding the resolution this vote was about, see here.
What was the procedure for this vote?
- What was this vote on?
- What is the next step after this vote?
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.
This vote is related to a resolution. However, that doesn’t necessarily tell you what it is about. Congress makes many decisions in the process of passing legislation, such as on the procedures for debating the resolution, whether to change the resolution before voting on passage, and even whether to vote on passage at all.
Take a look at where this resolution is in the legislative process. What might come next? Keep in mind what this specific vote was on, and the context of the resolution. Will there be amendments? Will the other chamber of Congress vote on it, or let it die?
For this question it may help to briefly examine the resolution itself.
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?
If you don’t already know who your Members of Congress are you can find them by entering your address here.
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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