The record shows that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell voted against cloture for a continuing resolution which would have kept the government open. Despite this, he said that by not supporting the advancement of this continuing resolution, Democrats were trying to “hold the entire country hostage”. Even stranger, after the vote, McConnell said on the Senate floor:

Perhaps across the aisle some of our Democratic colleagues are feeling proud of themselves, but what has their filibuster accomplished? … The answer is simple: Their very own government shutdown.

However, he voted against breaking that filibuster.

What’s going on here?

1 Answer 1


It’s for “procedural reasons to preserve his right to bring the bill up again”.

This article from the Washington Post explains why former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid always seemingly vote against his own party.

It's that somebody on the winning side of the cloture vote — in this case, the side voting against cloture — has to file a "motion to reconsider" if the matter is to be taken up again. "I suppose the broader parliamentary principle here is that it would be somewhat unfair to give someone on the losing side of a question a second bite at the apple," Binder explains. So the rules provide for senators whose opinion has changed to motion for another vote, whereas those whose opinion stays the same don't get to keep filing to reconsider.

Reid, and other majority leaders before him, have developed a clever workaround: Just change your vote at the last minute if it looks as though you're going to lose, then move to reconsider. In theory, any supporter of the bill or nomination in question could do the same, but traditionally it's been the majority leader.

(emphasis mine)

  • 7
    Basically you'd want to have only one vote against the 'party line', so that you don't end up defeating yourself if 20 voters got the same idea. So you coordinate, and who better to coordinate than the leader.
    – Bent
    Jan 20, 2018 at 13:32
  • 6
    IIRC, McConnell just delayed voting at all until he saw how the vote was going to come out. It seem to recall reading at one point that the only Senators who hadn't voted were McConnell and McCain (who is away from the Senate due to sickness.)
    – reirab
    Jan 20, 2018 at 21:54

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