AskDefine | Define cloture

Dictionary Definition

cloture n : a rule for limiting or ending debate in a deliberative body [syn: closure, gag rule, gag law] v : terminate debate by calling for a vote; "debate was closured"; "cloture the discussion" [syn: closure]

User Contributed Dictionary

English

Etymology

From the clôture, closure.

Pronunciation

  • AHD: klō'chûr

Noun

  1. In legislative assemblies that permit unlimited debate (filibuster); a motion, procedure or rule, by which debate is ended so that a vote may be taken on the matter. For example, in the United States Senate, a three-fifths majority vote of the body is required to invoke cloture and terminate debate.

Extensive Definition

In parliamentary procedure, cloture () (also called closure, and sometimes a guillotine) is a motion or process aimed at bringing debate to a quick end.
The procedure originated in the French National Assembly, from which the name (originally clôture, meaning "fence") in French is taken. It was introduced into the United Kingdom Parliament by William Gladstone to overcome the obstruction of the Irish nationalist party and was made permanent in 1887. It was subsequently adopted by the United States Senate and other legislatures.

United Kingdom

A motion for closure may be adopted in both the House of Commons and in the House of Lords by a simple majority of those voting. In the House of Commons, at least one hundred Members must vote in favour of the motion for closure to be adopted; the Speaker of the House of Commons may choose to deny the closure motion if he feels that insufficient debate has occurred, or that the procedure is being used to violate the rights of the minority. The government often imposes a timetable on legislation in advance by way of a programme motion, under which debate automatically ceases when the allotted time expires. In the House of Lords, the Lord Speaker does not possess an equivalent power. Closure motions are often referred to as "guillotines".

United States

A similar procedure was adopted in the United States of America in 1917 in response to the actions of isolationist senators who attempted to talk out, or filibuster, a bill to arm U.S. merchant ships. President Woodrow Wilson urged the Senate to change its rules to thwart what he called a "little group of willful men", to which the Senate responded by introducing cloture in the form of Rule 22. Cloture was invoked for the first time to end filibuster on the Treaty of Versailles.
The Cloture Rule originally required a supermajority of two-thirds of all senators "present and voting". (For example, if all 100 Senators voted on a Cloture Motion, 67 of those votes would have to be for cloture for it to pass, however if some Senators were absent and only 80 Senators voted on a cloture motion, only 54 would have to vote in favor.) However, it proved very difficult to achieve this; the Senate tried eleven times between 1927 and 1962 to invoke cloture but failed each time. Filibuster was particularly heavily used by senators from Southern states to block civil rights legislation.
In 1975, the Democratic Senate majority, having achieved a net gain of four seats in the 1974 Senate elections to a strength of 61 (with an additional Independent caucusing with them for a total of 62), reduced the necessary supermajority to three-fifths (60 out of 100). However, as a compromise to those whose were against the revision, the new rule also changed the requirement for determining the number of votes needed for a cloture motion's passage from those Senators "present and voting" to those Senators "duly chosen and sworn". Thus, 60 votes for cloture would be necessary regardless of whether every Senator voted. The only time a lesser number would become acceptable is when a Senate seat is vacant. (For example, if there were two vacancies in the Senate, thereby making 98 Senators "duly chosen and sworn", it would only take 59 votes for a Cloture motion to pass.)
The new version of the Cloture Rule, which has remained in place since 1975, allows the Senate majority to invoke cloture, providing that party discipline holds. This has considerably strengthened the power of the majority, and allowed it to pass many bills that would otherwise have been filibustered. (The Democratic Party had held a two-thirds majority in the 89th Congress of 1965, but regional divisions among Democrats meant that many filibusters were invoked by Southern Democrats against civil rights bills supported by the Northern wing of the party.) Some senators wanted to reduce it to a simple majority (51 out of 100) but this was rejected, as it would greatly diminish the ability of the minority to check the majority.
It should be noted that the three-fifths version of the Cloture Rule does not apply to Cloture motions to end filibusters relating to Senate Rule changes. In order to invoke Cloture to end debate over changing the Senate Rules, the original version of the rule, two-thirds of those Senators "present and voting", still applies.
The procedure for "invoking cloture," or ending a filibuster, is as follows:
  • A minimum of sixteen senators must sign a petition for cloture.
  • The petition may be presented by interrupting another Senator's speech.
  • The clerk reads the petition.
  • The cloture petition is ignored for one full day during which the Senate is sitting (If the petition is filed on a Friday, it is ignored until Monday, assuming that the Senate did not sit on Saturday or Sunday.)
  • On the second calendar day during which the Senate sits after the presentation of the petition, after the Senate has been sitting for one hour, a "quorum call" is undertaken to ensure that a majority of the Senators are present.
  • The President of the Senate or President pro tempore presents the petition.
  • The Senate votes on the petition; three-fifths of the whole number of Senators (sixty with no vacancies) is the required majority; however, when cloture is invoked on a question of changing the rules of the Senate, two-thirds of the Senators voting (not necessarily two-thirds of all Senators) is the requisite majority.
After cloture has been invoked, the following restrictions apply:
  • No more than thirty hours of debate may occur.
  • No Senator may speak for more than one hour.
  • No amendments may be moved unless they were filed on the day in between the presentation of the petition and the actual cloture vote.
  • All amendments must be relevant to the debate.
  • Certain debates on procedure are not permissible.
  • The presiding officer gains additional power in controlling debate.
  • No other matters may be considered until the question upon which cloture was invoked is disposed of.

See also

References

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

cloture by compartment, committee consideration, debate, deliberation, division, filibuster, filibustering, filing, first reading, guillotine, introduction, kangaroo cloture, logrolling, roll call, second reading, steamroller methods, tabling, talkathon, third reading, vote
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