Disaster Zone

Senate Rules, Cloture and 'Call the Question'

Understanding the process is important.

by Eric Holdeman / October 4, 2018

Today the United States Senate voted using "cloture" to end the debate on the confirmation of the U.S. Supreme Court nominee. 

My reason for writing today is that news organizations, due to time constraints or a lack of attention to detail, are not covering what a cloture vote means. Generally they call it a "procedural vote." Personally I've had some acrimonious meetings to chair in two different churches as president and thus chairing the congregational meetings. 

For anyone who has had to chair a meeting that is required to follow Robert's Rules of Order (I actually like to call them "Bob's Rules) they must know and understand what is meant when someone "Calls the question." See the link on this particular procedure. In that case, it is a motion to "end the debate" on the motion that is being considered. In that process, it immediately proceeds to a vote on the motion in question. 

The U.S. Senate has its own particular process, but today's vote on cloture was basically a "call the question" moment in time. It is meant to end debate. Evidently it is usually associated with ending a filibuster. The vote today, with its passage, means that a vote can be made as soon as tomorrow.

Thus you cannot automatically make the assumption that anyone who voted for cloture is going to vote for Brett Kavanaugh tomorrow. It is only a vote to end the debate. People can vote to end a debate and not approve a motion or a nominee.

Just trying to get you all situated and contemplating the "final vote" on Saturday.