I read a news article today that claims that a Congressional bill to provide disaster relief to US communities has been derailed, because a single member of the House of Representatives objected to it.

How is it possible for a single member of congress to effectively 'veto' an entire bill like this? I thought most (if not all) votes in Congress are decided by majority vote. Was this vote different for some reason, which meant it had to be unanimous? (if so, why?)

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    Comments are meant only for asking for clarifications or to suggest improvements. The couple of comments offering examples did neither, and were removed. Please do not re-post them.
    – yannis
    Commented May 31, 2019 at 12:31

2 Answers 2


The US house (and other systems) allows for expedited voting via "unanimous consent" - without a proper vote where each member's position is noted, the Speaker simply asks for a voice vote and motions to pass with unanimous consent (which does not mean everyone votes "yes" but rather that anyone who would vote "no" effectively acknowledges that there are sufficient "yes" votes to pass, so they aren't going to waste their time).

However, any member can object to a measure passing this way, which is what happened in this case, and demand a full vote. This objection then delays the measure because it must be scheduled for a full vote.

Most reporting I have seen on the issue correctly describes this as a "delay" rather than a "veto" and indeed "delay" is a more appropriate description.

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    @Time4Tea In this case it's in part because the House was in a pro forma session - there weren't enough folks around for a full vote. The reason Democrats have some reason to be upset here is that it doesn't seem like they had any indication there would be a problem here (i.e., the Republican leadership was on board, this is one member's doing). Frankly, even with all the bickering between the parties right now, most of the work the House does is non-controversial and passes by these simple votes. But yes, it is not completely dead, I've updated my answer to mention this is a delay. Commented May 28, 2019 at 20:25
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    It's also worth noting that this is more of a delay than it would otherwise be, because the House is in recess. Otherwise, they could just take the full vote immediately or the next day.
    – Bobson
    Commented May 28, 2019 at 21:19
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    @Time4Tea You should see how the British vote on things, then. Commented May 29, 2019 at 3:50
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    @Time4Tea The House does have electronic push button voting (since 1973). The Senate does not.
    – user71659
    Commented May 29, 2019 at 5:41
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    @MartinBonner Agreed that the term is not pedant-friendly at an individual-word level, but I do believe "unanimous consent" is the standard terminology (at least for the US House and Senate)...it's unanimous in that everyone is in agreement that the motion may pass, not that they support the motion itself. Commented May 29, 2019 at 15:04

A single lawmaker didn't really veto the bill. What they "vetoed" was an instant, immediate, as-is passage of the legislation. The process is called "unanimous consent" where the idea is that, if no one objects, the bill is passed. Fast and easy.

It can still pass, but it will have to go through the usual process including scheduled debate time for the bill, which will delay things quite a bit and would probably also see some changes to the bill through negotiations, relevant committee markups, riders, or via amendments.

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    There's an alternative to the usual long process. This is called suspension of the rules. It limits debate to about an hour, no amendments allowed, but requires a 2/3 majority to pass.
    – pboss3010
    Commented May 29, 2019 at 11:48
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    @pboss3010 - do they need a certain quorum to do that? At issue is the fact that Pelosi already ended the session and many members are on recess, which is why not being able to pass by unanimous consent is such a delay. Commented May 29, 2019 at 15:28
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    I believe it requires the usual quorum, but it does bypass the need to schedule a rules vote and such. So it's faster than regular legislation, but not as fast as passing something by unanimous consent.
    – pboss3010
    Commented May 29, 2019 at 15:54
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    @PoloHoleSet "do they need a certain quorum to do that" - According to the clear text of the Constitution (Article I Section 5) you need a majority to do anything but recess for the day or gather more members. In practice, the quorum rule is simply ignored if nobody present questions whether they have a quorum, even if there's a ridiculously small number of people there.
    – D M
    Commented May 30, 2019 at 23:08

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