What You Need to Know: Cloture

What is cloture and why will Mitch McConnell call for it?

As members of the U.S. Senate await the report from the FBI on allegations that Brett Kavanaugh was involved in sexual misconduct when he was in high school and college, the vote on his nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court is on hold.

>> Read more trending news

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, told reporters on Tuesday that after the investigation is completed and the FBI report is sent to the White House and shared with members of the Senate, the procedure for the vote on Kavanaugh’s confirmation will be restarted.

>> Related: Why Sens. Jeff Flake and Chris Coons held up Brett Kavanaugh’s vote

"The time for endless delay and obstruction has come to a close. Judge Kavanaugh's nomination is out of committee. We're considering it here on the floor and ... we'll be voting this week," McConnell said.

The process began Friday when, following the dramatic vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee and a call for the investigation into claims against Kavanaugh, the full Senate voted on a motion to proceed with Kavanaugh’s nomination. That motion officially brought his nomination to the floor of the Senate.

>> Related: Kavanaugh vote: How does sexual trauma affect memory? Experts weigh in

The next step would have been for McConnell to call for a cloture vote, or a vote to end debate on the nomination. A cloture vote, if passed, would move the nomination on to the confirmation vote by the Senate.

McConnell held off on the call for that vote, allowing for the one-week investigation to take place. He is expected to invoke cloture as soon as the report is released and read. 

Once cloture is invoked, the Senate takes a series of steps to cut off debate on the nomination and move toward a vote.

Here is the procedure for invoking cloture:

  • At least 16 senators must sign a petition to invoke cloture.
    The petition is then presented by interrupting the speech of another senator.
  • The petition is presented to the clerk who reads it to the Senate members.
  • Then, the petition is ignored for a day. The day the petition is left to sit is a day in which the Senate must be seated and in session. That 24-hour period is known as a legislative day. For instance, if a petition for cloture is filed on a Wednesday, the Senate will not go back to the motion until Friday.
  • On that day, after the Senate has been sitting for one hour, a quorum call is taken. A quorum call is a roll call of those present in the Senate. It is used to determine if a majority, or quorum, of senators, are present in the chamber.
  • The Senate majority leader, McConnell, then presents the cloture petition.
  • A vote on the petition is called.
  • A simple majority of those present is needed to invoke cloture.

Once cloture has been invoked, this is what happens:

  • There will be no more than 30 more hours of debate on the matter in which cloture was invoked. In this case, Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court.
  • No amendments may be moved concerning the matter unless they were filed on the day between the petition being presented and the cloture vote. Those must be relevant to the debate.
  • No senator may speak for more than one hour.
  • Some usual procedural motions are suspended.
  • No other matters may be considered until the matter under which cloture was called is decided.
Epic Moments in U.S. Senate Filibustering History

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.

X