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On the Decision of the Chair PN92: Jeffrey Kessler, of Virginia, to be an Assistant Secretary of Commerce

Apr 3, 2019 at 3:13 p.m. ET.

This was the "nuclear option" vote, the second of seven votes on the three presidential nominations. In this vote, the Senate changed its rules for cloture votes on presidential 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, on a resolution to to shorten the time the Senate may debate presidential nominees failed to reach the 3/5ths threshold. In this vote the Senate changed its rules so that they could bypass the filibuster when approving presidential nominations.

McConnell's point of order

Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Majority Leader, raised a point of order that the Senate's rules only permit two hours of debate for presidential nominations. This was untrue. The resolution that would have made such a rule was filibustered in a previous vote. 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 Senate may debate approval of presidential nominations for 30 hours. A vote against was a vote to adopt McConnell's contention in the point of order. Although the chair's ruling was an accurate, this vote was intended as a means to change the Senate's rules going forward. The vote required a simple majority.

The result

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 debate on some presidential nominations may not last more than two hours, rather than the old rule of 30 hours.

This procedure has been used twice before: once by Republicans in 2017 to confirm Justice Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, and before that by Democrats in 2013 to prevent filibuster of presidential nominees.

Totals

All Votes R D I
Yea 48%
 
 
 
48
2
 
44
 
2
 
Nay 52%
 
 
 
51
51
 
0
 
0
 
Not Voting
 
 
 
1
0
 
1
 
0
 

Decision of Chair Not Sustained. Simple Majority Required. Source: senate.gov.

The Nay votes represented 47% of the country’s population by apportioning each state’s population to its voting senators.

Ideology Vote Chart

Key:
Republican - Yea Democrat - Yea Republican - Nay
Seat position based on our ideology score.

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Vote Details

Notes: “Aye” or “Yea”?
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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.

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Study Guide

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?

  1. What was this vote on?
  2. 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?

  1. What trends do you see in this vote?
  2. 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?

  3. How did your senators vote?
  4. 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.

  5. How much of the United States population is represented by the yeas?
  6. 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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