Congressional Voting Question

With some presidential candidates seemingly on the road every day for months, how do they vote on bills being sent to the house or senate?

Can they vote without being present? Do they just ignore most votes and fly back to D.C. for a vote that they feel is important?

They can’t vote if they’re not present. They will go back to DC to vote on things they consider important, but most of the time they will be absent.

Mostly, they don’t vote. If there is a critical vote they may return to DC for something (like McCain and Obama both returned to the Senate in 2008 to vote on the bailout bill), but generally speaking they miss virtually all of the votes for the period that they are on the campaign trail. There is no means by which they can vote if they are not physically present.

You must be in the body to vote, period. Very rarely is every congressman present for any particular vote, though (disease, injury, fundraising, or any number of reasons). You’ll notice if you go on the Senate’s official website that most votes are usually among 96 or 98, rather than 100. The House is usually missing more.

When running for President, Congresspeople tend not to vote at all, but sometimes make a special point to do so. In fact, some candidates take advantage of their campaign to avoid tough votes they’d rather not make. John McCain in 2008 suspended his campaign to vote for TARP, as well as “lead” a meeting about it.

To the extent Congress works at all, it works just as well if some people are missing for whatever reason.

You don’t need to be in the body to vote, period.

There is a procedure called vote pairing:

Pairing used to be more common. The rules were changed recently - 2006 IIRC - to make it more difficult, so it is currently in limited use. But it certainly exists and has a long history.

Those who are paired do not show up in the vote tally. The pairing would be recorded, but no votes are cast. You DO need to be present to vote.

See House Rule III:

That’s not, strictly speaking, voting - it’s a gentleman’s agreement to not be in the chamber to vote on an issue. The British Parliament makes use of it at times, although I think it’s in decline.

That’s exactly the kind of nonsense I’ve come to expect of Parliamentary procedure, and exactly the kind of nitpicking I’ve come to expect from this forum.

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I’m not trying to get existential here. Is vote pairing voting? It’s an official procedure in the rules of the House of Representatives, part of the permanent record of the House. Any Representative could simply announce what their vote would have been at any time, but they went beyond that as an actual rule to make vote pairing a technical reality. They do it only when the vote wouldn’t matter to change the result so it has the exact effect of a person standing on the House floor. Is a clone a human being? Vote pairing is voting because the House set it up to be voting and assumed that everybody would take it the same way as a vote.

Nit that, Pickers.

If you intend to vote for a Republican this November, and I intend to vote for a Democrat, and we take out an ad in the New York Times about it, doesn’t mean that we have voted.

The rules are clear. You can’t vote if you are not present. A pair is a way of having two members NOT vote and yet have the outcome not effected because on of the non-voting pair is not present. The non-votes of a pair are not counted in the vote tally.

This is all true. The procedure is undoubtedly an absurdity. Yet the House quite voluntarily set it up so that an absent member could have a position officially announced on the floor of the House in opposition to a present member’s position. It is therefore an absurdity to consider it anything other than a vote. It doesn’t count, yet it has exactly the same force as a present vote would have and was originated specifically to do so. If you don’t like it, take it up with the House. It’s their absurdity.

I haven’t participated in any of those threads saying we should chuck the Senate and make the House the only body. But those people are clinically insane. :smiley:

No, it is not an absurdity. It’s an informal arrangement to not change the outcome of a vote due to a member’s absence. It’s a courtesy.

And it isn’t a vote. It’s an arrangement for members NOT to vote. It is an arrangement for their positions NOT to count in the vote tally. A pair does not have “exactly the same force as a present vote”, because one half the pair is not physically present, therefore that individual does not count toward establishing a quorum for transacting business.

Just because it is in the rules doesn’t make it a vote, no more than one say that a speech is actually a bill because both involve words and are allowed under the rules. In fact, the way Rule XX is phrased specifically to differentiate a vote from a pair: “After the roll has been called once, the Clerk shall call the names of those not recorded, alphabetically by surname. Members appearing after the second call, but before the result is announced, may vote or announce a pair.” “Or announce a pair.” Not “vote by announcing a pair.”

Look, this is a simple fact and this is General Questions. Maybe you like word games, but a pair simply isn’t a vote.

Quite so.

‘Not voting’ is abstention, which is to not vote, i.e. to decline from favouring or opposing the motion.

Honor and courtesy used to be more common. That’s changed too. Rather than"pairing" with Ted Kennedy when he was too sick to appear, Republicans preferred to believe the cancer was God (or Satan?)'s Gift to advance their agenda.

Since most of the above dicussion was in regard to the House, that bring up the question - Does the US Senate have a similar rule for “pairing” in its somewhat convoluted rules?

I’ve never heard of the U.S. Senate doing that.

See Jeffrey Archer’s excellent political novel First Among Equals for more info on pairing in the British House of Commons, at least as of the early 1980s, when he wrote it. Looks like they don’t do it anymore: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pair_(parliamentary_convention)

Ask and ye shall receive.

Pairing is not mentioned in the rules, but has been used based on practices and custom.

Thank you.

Ah the US Senate, The Greatest Debilitating Body in the World. :wink: