During the United States federal government shutdown of 2018, a single party commanded both the White House and a majority in both houses of Congress. Under these circumstances, why is there a government shutdown? Does it mean that this party is unable to agree between its members in Congress and its President?

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    Does it mean that this party is unable to agree? = yes
    – user1530
    Commented Jan 21, 2018 at 6:40
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    @blip No, it means that Democrats filibustered the bill in the Senate. Unlike the Democrats near the beginning of Obama's term, the GOP does not have a filibuster-proof supermajority in the Senate - or anything close to one. They have 51 votes (out of 100 total.) Stopping a filibuster requires 60.
    – reirab
    Commented Jan 21, 2018 at 7:15
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    @reirab filibuster was irrelevant. They couldn't even agree across their own party. So it's moot either way.
    – user1530
    Commented Jan 21, 2018 at 13:53
  • @blip No, the filibuster was not irrelevant. They had a majority of votes for the bill, just not 60. Without the filibuster, it would have passed.
    – reirab
    Commented Jan 21, 2018 at 19:42
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    @blip I'm not arguing whose fault it is or isn't; I'm saying your comment about the GOP being unable to agree with itself is not the source of the problem. They did have enough votes to pass it without filibuster and it has already passed the House (where filibuster isn't possible.)
    – reirab
    Commented Jan 21, 2018 at 20:23

2 Answers 2


Does it mean that this party is unable to agree between its members in Congress and its President?

This doesn't really have anything to do with the president. Sixty votes is the threshold to invoke cloture on most votes, including this one. Trump has nothing whatsoever to do with cloture. He can neither block it nor grant it. It's entirely a Senate thing. The lack of cloture prevents the Senate from actually voting on the bill.

Anyway, if they needed to override a Donald Trump veto, the threshold is two thirds. That's sixty-seven votes out of a hundred.

Even if John McCain had voted yea (he did not vote at all, presumably for health reasons) and the five Republicans who voted against the continuing resolution had voted yea, they still would only have had fifty-six votes and they needed sixty. Democrats Doug Jones, Joe Manchin, Joe Donnelly, Heidi Heitkamp, and Claire McCaskill voted for the bill to avoid the shutdown. Jones is extremely vulnerable in 2020. The other four are up for election in 2018 in vulnerable states.

Mitch McConnell voted nay so as to be able to reintroduce the same bill later. McCain was not present for the vote; he has brain cancer and likely did not bother to attend as his vote wouldn't have mattered. I'm not sure of the specific reasons why Lindsey Graham, Rand Paul, Mike Lee, and Jeff Flake did not vote for the bill. Graham advocates a slightly different bill, so he may have voted nay so as to support the other bill.

Should this or another bill pass the Senate (and the House; this bill came from the House but any changes would need a new vote), there is no reason to think that Trump wouldn't sign it. He has expressed official approval of the bill.

Vote info

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    +1. One can argue that if the Republicans had a united support then, while that is insufficient to invoke cloture, with a few vulnerable democratic senators likely to join the vote to invoke cloture the pressure would be substantially elevated on Democrats to provide a few more votes to proceed, lest they be easily branded as "at fault". As-is, Republican disagreements and dysfunctions gave Democrats enough power and certainty in the failure that "fault" would not be (entirely) theirs. Or so they hope (and similarly so do Republicans). Time will tell how the voters feel. Commented Jan 21, 2018 at 0:39
  • I think that McCain is in Arizona undergoing treatment (so it's not like he "just didn't bother". BTW, the vote that was taken Friday night in the Senate was not on the bill. The bill that was being debated was never voted on, I believe because McConnell realized it would be defeated
    – BobE
    Commented Jan 21, 2018 at 3:09
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    @BobE The vote Friday night was for cloture. The cloture vote is required to pass first in order to be able to actually vote on the bill. Had the cloture vote passed, the bill would have, too, as that would have only required a simple majority, which they had.
    – reirab
    Commented Jan 21, 2018 at 5:10
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    For the non-US audience among us, could you clarify what cloture is? If I understand correctly, it's related to filibusters?
    – gerrit
    Commented Jan 21, 2018 at 12:38
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    In the US, Congresspeople (specifically Senators) can talk as long as they want. Therefore they can delay or prevent the passage of a bill by simply standing and talking for hours or days on end. A vote of cloture, which requires a supermajority, puts a stop to this delaying tactic by restricting, among other things, how long Senators can speak both individually and collectively.
    – Obie 2.0
    Commented Jan 21, 2018 at 18:13

Yes, (assuming that the Continuing Resolution was what the President wanted). In order for the Senate to consider the House passed Continuing Resolution, they needed 60 votes to close debate (cloture)and then could proceed to on the HR 195. The Senate Republicans were only able to marshal 45 votes, so approximately 10% of the Republicans were unwilling to agree to proceed to consideration, thereby blocking the (assumed) presidential preference. If that 10% deficit represents an inability to agree to consider HR195 - then yes.

Expanding further: The Senate Majority leader, realizing that he would need 50 to vote yea on HR 195 to pass, but could only muster 45 votes to end debate, concluded that the Continuing Resolution would fail if brought to a full Senate vote.

  • To clarify — do they need 60 votes because it overrides the President, or do they need 60 votes to pass anything even if the President agrees? In the latter cause I'd expect this to be a lot more common...
    – gerrit
    Commented Jan 20, 2018 at 18:24
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    @gerrit They need 60 senators (under current senate rules) to ensure those opposing a bill can't prevent it being brought to a vote through a filibuster.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Filibuster#Senate en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Filibuster_in_the_United_States_Senate This is all internal to the Senate.
    – origimbo
    Commented Jan 20, 2018 at 18:39
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    @origimbo 8 - It is not at all uncommon for parliamentary organizations to have a supermajority requirement to limit debate or take such other actions that might restrict the minority from exercising a right to discuss a pending action. The intention is to balance the scales against what is referred to as the "tyranny of the majority"
    – BobE
    Commented Jan 21, 2018 at 3:21
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    They had 51 votes, not 45. Had the filibuster been stopped, the bill would have passed. (Only 50 Senators actually voted for cloture, but McConnell voted against it only for procedural reasons, as mentioned in Brythan's answer. If the cloture vote would have been able to succeed, he'd have voted for it.)
    – reirab
    Commented Jan 21, 2018 at 5:13
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    @reirab 10 The original question is focused on party ("this party is unable to agree...". There was no vote taken on HR 195, so assertion that the republicans "had 51 (affirmative) votes" is incorrect. What the republicans were able to get from their party members was only 45 to invoke cloture. Since the cloture motion was defeated, you and I still don't know how many votes the republican members would have cast to "pass the bill"
    – BobE
    Commented Jan 21, 2018 at 15:42

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