I'm just wondering if someone could break this down

Senate Republicans pushed through a pair of President Trump’s Cabinet nominees Wednesday, upending standard committee rules to circumvent a Democratic boycott.

Did the Republicans break a rule, or not? If so, what rule?

  • The answer to this question is in the very article you are referencing. It explains how the republicans changed the standing committee rules requiring a member of each party be present.
    – user1530
    Commented Feb 3, 2017 at 6:37
  • I was unsatisfied with that definition.. How do you change the rules? I found the answer though. There is a rule that permits you to change the rules if 100% of the people agree. Commented Feb 3, 2017 at 6:39
  • When it says they "changed" them, it really says they ignored them. Against the rules, but since the enforcers of the rules are the people who decided to ignore them, not sure if there is formal recourse, other than stern disapproval, the making of political hay, and storing it in memory for an eventual tit for tat payback. Commented Feb 3, 2017 at 18:45

3 Answers 3


No rules were broken. Republicans used their majority to change Senate committee rules.

The senate has rules on what's known as quorum. Quorum basically means the minimum number of people that must be present for normal business to occur. Quorum rules, especially for committees, are defined by the senate and for the senate.

Due to Trump's executive order restricting immigration to the US the Democratic Senators began protesting by boycotting the confirmation hearings of Trump's nominees. This prevented Republicans from gaining a quorum and the ability to vote on the nominee. To counter this action, Republicans use their majority in general session to achieve a quorum and change the rules for committees such that they can still achieve their quorum and confirm the nominees (this is how Tillerson got confirmed).

So bottom line, the Republicans used official Senate procedure and no laws or rules were broken.

  • 5
    Might be fairer to say "Majority party senators changed the rules to suit their needs, as is not uncommon in the senate".
    – user1530
    Commented Feb 3, 2017 at 6:33
  • @blip Yeah, thats sort of what I was implying by my 'for the senate by the senate' line. This type of stuff is pretty common. Commented Feb 3, 2017 at 12:44
  • Do they not need quorum for a rule change, or is the quorum for rule changes less than that for recommending confirmation?
    – Max
    Commented Feb 3, 2017 at 13:11
  • @Max they did not need a quorum in committee, they needed it in general session (which they had). This is where their majority comes into play Commented Feb 3, 2017 at 13:13
  • 1
    @Max fair point, updated. Commented Feb 3, 2017 at 14:18

The answer to this question is in the very article you are referencing:

By unanimous consent, the Republicans gathered in the hearing room agreed to change the committee’s standing rules, which normally require at least one member of each party to be in attendance for committee work to proceed.

No rules were broken, but rather, they were 'upended' by changing them. They changed the rules so they could proceed without breaking any rules.


No, the Republicans did not break a rule. It turns out, according to Vox,

Wednesday, Republicans deployed a workaround — Republicans on the committee used a "unanimous consent" clause to suspend all of its rules for the meeting, then voted to confirm the nominations for Steven Mnuchin, up for Treasury secretary, and Tom Price, nominated for Health and Human Services secretary.

So because 0 Democrats were there, 100% of the people in the committee agreed to a new rule, to suspend the rules. That suspension meant they no longer needed the quorum to make the appointment.

  • And had a Democrat been there to oppose the "unanimous consent" then there would have been a quorum sot the "unanimous consent" vote would not have been required. Commented Feb 3, 2017 at 18:02
  • But if there is a required number in order to conduct business, the business of setting aside the minimum required number would also require the minimum number, technically, though maybe that clause specifically exempts from the requirement. So, yeah, they probably did break the rule, but it's their rules, so they pretty much get to do that, though it only further escalates the partisan divide in future dealings. If that's not a concern, then that's not really an obstacle. Vox, though I usually agree with their political leanings, can be maddeningly loose on facts and specifics. Commented Feb 3, 2017 at 18:52

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