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In the UK Parliament, there is a procedure whereby two MPs from opposite sides of the House can agree to both be absent for a vote, thereby preserving the same balance of votes as if both had attended. The pairing procedure can be used for all votes, except those indicated as a "three line whip" (for which all MPs are expected to vote if they are able)

The intention is to allow MPs to do constituency or government work, without being disturbed by numerous votes on relatively minor matters.

Is there a similar procedure used in the US House of Representatives or Senate?

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In the House of Representatives there is a rarely-used procedure known as the "live pair". In this case, one member is present and one is absent, and the present one makes a statement as to how the absent one would have voted, which is recorded but doesn't "count". The member who is present would vote "present", abstaining from the vote but stating how they would normally have voted, to cancel out the other person's vote. Prior to 1999 there were pairs like in the British system, where both members would be absent but would state their opinions, as well as pairings that were recorded without statement of how they would vote. The Congressional Research Service report on pairing goes into much better detail on this. At the time of the report in 2015, the most recent pairing was in 2003--indicating how little this is used. Wikipedia claims it exists in the Senate also, but I can not corroborate that.

  • With the "live pair", are both from opposite parties? Or is this for intra-party bookkeping? – Bobson Jul 5 '18 at 15:51
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    Not necessarily opposite parties, but opposite sides on the issue. E.g. Representative A would stand and would say "Normally I would vote Aye, but as Rep. B can not attend and would vote Nay, she and I have formed a live pair and I will instead abstain out of respect for her views. Please record this in the Congressional Record as such". – Eremi Jul 5 '18 at 16:14
  • *CRS is the Congressional Record Service. – K Dog Jul 5 '18 at 16:31
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    *Congressional Research Service – Eremi Jul 5 '18 at 16:32
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    On Saturday we had a high visibility example of a "live pairing" in the Senate (Murkowski being the senator in attendance who withheld her vote in keeping with the pairing) – Ben Voigt Oct 8 '18 at 21:36

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