Month: December 2014

Alaska’s National Climate Assessment

Alaska has warmed twice as fast as the rest of the nation, bringing widespread impacts. Sea ice is rapidly receding and glaciers are shrinking. Thawing permafrost is leading to more wildfire, and affecting infrastructure and wildlife habitat. Rising ocean temperatures and acidification will alter valuable marine fisheries.


The Alaska region includes the state of Alaska and its surrounding waters. The Highlights section below offers a high-level overview of climate change impacts on this region, including the five Key Messages and selected topics.

Key Message: Disappearing Sea Ice

Arctic summer sea ice is receding faster than previously projected and is expected to virtually disappear before mid-century. This is altering marine ecosystems and leading to greater ship access, offshore development opportunity, and increased community vulnerability to coastal erosion.

Key Message: Shrinking Glaciers

Most glaciers in Alaska and British Columbia are shrinking substantially. This trend is expected to continue and has implications for hydropower production, ocean circulation patterns, fisheries, and global sea level rise.

Key Message: Thawing Permafrost

Permafrost temperatures in Alaska are rising, a thawing trend that is expected to continue, causing multiple vulnerabilities through drier landscapes, more wildfire, altered wildlife habitat, increased cost of maintaining infrastructure, and the release of heat-trapping gases that increase climate warming.

Key Message: Changing Ocean Temperatures and Chemistry

Current and projected increases in Alaska’s ocean temperatures and changes in ocean chemistry are expected to alter the distribution and productivity of Alaska’s marine fisheries, which lead the U.S. in commercial value.

Key Message: Native Communities

The cumulative effects of climate change in Alaska strongly affect Native communities, which are highly vulnerable to these rapid changes but have a deep cultural history of adapting to change.


Over the past 60 years, Alaska has warmed more than twice as rapidly as the rest of the U.S., with average annual air temperature increasing by 3°F and average winter temperature by 6°F, with substantial year-to-year and regional variability. Most of the warming occurred around 1976 during a shift in a long-lived climate pattern (the Pacific Decadal Oscillation) from a cooler pattern to a warmer one. The underlying long-term warming trend has moderated the effects of the more recent shift of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation to its cooler phase in the early 2000s. Alaska’s warming involves more extremely hot days and fewer extremely cold days. Because of its cold-adapted features and rapid warming, climate change impacts on Alaska are already pronounced, including earlier spring snowmelt, reduced sea ice, widespread glacier retreat, warmer permafrost, drier landscapes, and more extensive insect outbreaks and wildfire.

The state’s largest industries, energy production, mining, and fishing, are all affected by climate change. Continuing pressure for oil, gas, and mineral development on land and offshore in ice-covered waters increases the demand for infrastructure, placing additional stresses on ecosystems. Land-based energy exploration will be affected by a shorter season when ice roads are viable, yet reduced sea ice extent may create more opportunity for offshore development.

Alaska is home to 40% of the federally recognized tribes in the United States. The small number of jobs, high cost of living, and rapid social change make rural, predominantly Native, communities highly vulnerable to climate change through impacts on traditional hunting and fishing and cultural connection to the land and sea.

The Big Thaw

Arctic sea ice extent and thickness have declined substantially, especially in late summer (September), when there is now only about half as much sea ice as at the beginning of the satellite record in 1979. The seven Septembers with the lowest ice extent all occurred in the past seven years. Sea ice has also become thinner, with less ice lasting over multiple years, and is therefore more vulnerable to further melting. Models that best match historical trends project that northern waters will be virtually ice-free in late summer by the 2030s.

Reductions in sea ice increase the amount of the sun’s energy absorbed by the ocean. This melts more ice, leaving more dark open water that gains even more heat, leading to a self-reinforcing cycle that increases warming.

In Alaska, 80% of land is underlain by permafrost – frozen ground that restricts water drainage and therefore strongly influences landscape water balance and the design and maintenance of infrastructure. More than 70% of this area is vulnerable to subsidence (land sinking) upon thawing because of its ice content. Permafrost near the Alaskan Arctic coast has warmed 6°F to 8°F at 3.3 foot depth since the mid-1980s. Thawing is already occurring in interior and southern Alaska, where permafrost temperatures are near the thaw point. Permafrost will continue to thaw, and some models project that near-surface permafrost will be lost entirely from large parts of Alaska by the end of this century.

The IPCC’s Synthesis Report

This Synthesis Report is based on the reports of the three Working Groups of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), including relevant Special Reports. It provides an integrated view of climate change as the final part of the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report (AR5).

The following is a summary of that report:

Human influence on the climate system is clear, and recent anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases are the highest in history. Recent climate changes have had widespread impacts on human and natural systems.

  • Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia. The atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished, and sea level has risen.
  • Anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions have increased since the pre-industrial era, driven largely by economic and population growth, and are now higher than ever. This has led to atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide that are unprecedented in at least the last 800,000 years. Their effects, together with those of other anthropogenic drivers, have been detected throughout the climate system and are extremely likely to have been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.
  • In recent decades, changes in climate have caused impacts on natural and human systems on all continents and across the oceans. Impacts are due to observed climate change, irrespective of its cause, indicating the sensitivity of natural and human systems to changing climate.
  • Changes in many extreme weather and climate events have been observed since about 1950. Some of these changes have been linked to human influences, including a decrease in cold temperature extremes, an increase in warm temperature extremes, an increase in extreme high sea levels and an increase in the number of heavy precipitation events in a number of regions

Continued emission of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and long-lasting changes in all components of the climate system, increasing the likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems. Limiting climate change would require substantial and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions which, together with adaptation, can limit climate change risks.

  • Cumulative emissions of CO2 largely determine global mean surface warming by the late 21st century and beyond. Projections of greenhouse gas emissions vary over a wide range, depending on both socio-economic development and climate policy.
  • Surface temperature is projected to rise over the 21st century under all assessed emission scenarios. It is very likely that heat waves will occur more often and last longer, and that extreme precipitation events will become more intense and frequent in many regions. The ocean will continue to warm and acidify, and global mean sea level to rise.
  • Climate change will amplify existing risks and create new risks for natural and human systems. Risks are unevenly distributed and are generally greater for disadvantaged people and communities in countries at all levels of development.
  • Many aspects of climate change and associated impacts will continue for centuries, even if anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases are stopped. The risks of abrupt or irreversible changes increase as the magnitude of the warming increases.

Adaptation and mitigation are complementary strategies for reducing and managing the risks of climate change. Substantial emissions reductions over the next few decades can reduce climate risks in the 21st century and beyond, increase prospects for effective adaptation, reduce the costs and challenges of mitigation in the longer term and contribute to climate-resilient pathways for sustainable development.

  • Effective decision-making to limit climate change and its effects can be informed by a wide range of analytical approaches for evaluating expected risks and benefits, recognizing the importance of governance, ethical dimensions, equity, value judgments, economic assessments and diverse perceptions and responses to risk and uncertainty.
  • Without additional mitigation efforts beyond those in place today, and even with adaptation, warming by the end of the 21st century will lead to high to very high risk of severe, widespread and irreversible impacts globally (high confidence). Mitigation involves some level of co-benefits and of risks due to adverse side effects, but these risks do not involve the same possibility of severe, widespread and irreversible impacts as risks from climate change, increasing the benefits from near-term mitigation efforts.
  • Adaptation can reduce the risks of climate change impacts, but there are limits to its effectiveness, especially with greater magnitudes and rates of climate change. Taking a longerterm perspective, in the context of sustainable development, increases the likelihood that more immediate adaptation actions will also enhance future options and preparedness.
  • There are multiple mitigation pathways that are likely to limit warming to below 2°C relative to pre-industrial levels. These pathways would require substantial emissions reductions over the next few decades and near zero emissions of CO2 and other long-lived greenhouse gases by the end of the century. Implementing such reductions poses substantial technological, economic, social and institutional challenges, which increase with delays in additional mitigation and if key technologies are not available. Limiting warming to lower or higher levels involves similar challenges but on different timescales.

Many adaptation and mitigation options can help address climate change, but no single option is sufficient by itself. Effective implementation depends on policies and cooperation at all scales and can be enhanced through integrated responses that link adaptation and mitigation with other societal objectives.

  • Adaptation and mitigation responses are underpinned by common enabling factors. These include effective institutions and governance, innovation and investments in environmentally sound technologies and infrastructure, sustainable livelihoods and behavioural and lifestyle choices.
  • Adaptation options exist in all sectors, but their context for implementation and potential to reduce climate-related risks differs across sectors and regions. Some adaptation responses involve significant co-benefits, synergies and trade-offs. Increasing climate change will increase challenges for many adaptation options.
  • Mitigation options are available in every major sector. Mitigation can be more cost-effective if using an integrated approach that combines measures to reduce energy use and the greenhouse gas intensity of end-use sectors, decarbonize energy supply, reduce net emissions and enhance carbon sinks in land-based sectors.
  • Effective adaptation and mitigation responses will depend on policies and measures across multiple scales: international, regional, national and sub-national. Policies across all scales supporting technology development, diffusion and transfer, as well as finance for responses to climate change, can complement and enhance the effectiveness of policies that directly promote adaptation and mitigation.
  • Climate change is a threat to sustainable development. Nonetheless, there are many opportunities to link mitigation, adaptation and the pursuit of other societal objectives through integrated responses (high confidence). Successful implementation relies on relevant tools, suitable governance structures and enhanced capacity to respond (medium confidence)

Criminal Justice Facts

The United States is the world’s leader in incarceration. There are 2.2 million people in the nation’s prisons and jails—a 500% increase over the last 40 years. Changes in law and policy, not changes in crime rates, explain most of this increase. The results are overcrowding in prisons and fiscal burdens on states, despite increasing evidence that large-scale incarceration is not an effective means of achieving public safety.


Figure 1 Criminal Justice


Figure 2 Criminal Justice


How did this happen?

We started sending more people to prison.

A series of law enforcement and sentencing policy changes of the “tough on crime” era resulted in dramatic growth in incarceration. Since the official beginning of the War on Drugs in 1982, the number of people incarcerated for drug offenses in the U.S. skyrocketed from 41,000 in 1980 to nearly half a million in 2014. Today, there are more people behind bars for a drug offense than the number of people who were in prison or jail for any crime in 1980. The number of people sentenced to prison for property and violent crimes has also increased even during periods when crime rates have declined.


Figure 3 Criminal Justice


We started sending people to prison for much longer terms.

Harsh sentencing laws like mandatory minimums, combined with cutbacks in parole release, keep people in prison for longer periods of time. The National Research Council reported that half of the 222% growth in the state prison population between 1980 and 2010 was due to an increase of time served in prison for all offenses. There has also been a historic rise in the use of life sentences: one in nine people in prison is now serving a life sentence, nearly a third of whom are sentenced to life without parole.


Figure 4 Criminal Justice


Mass incarceration has not touched all communities equally

Sentencing policies, implicit racial bias, and socioeconomic inequity contribute to racial disparities at every level of the criminal justice system. Today, people of color make up 37% of the U.S. population but 67% of the prison population. Overall, African Americans are more likely than white Americans to be arrested; once arrested, they are more likely to be convicted; and once convicted, they are more likely to face stiff sentences. Black men are six times as likely to be incarcerated as white men and Hispanic men are more than twice as likely to be incarcerated as non-Hispanic white men.


Figure 5 Criminal Justice


Mass incarceration and public safety

Crime rates have declined substantially since the early 1990s, but studies suggest that rising imprisonment has not played a major role in this trend. The National Research Council concluded that while prison growth was a factor in reducing crime, “the magnitude of the crime reduction remains highly uncertain and the evidence suggests it was unlikely to have been large.” Several factors explain why this impact was relatively modest.

First, incarceration is particularly ineffective at reducing certain kinds of crimes: in particular, youth crimes, many of which are committed in groups, and drug crimes. When people get locked up for these offenses, they are easily replaced on the streets by others seeking an income or struggling with addiction.

Second, people tend to “age out” of crime. Research shows that crime starts to peak in the mid- to late- teenage years and begins to decline when individuals are in their mid-20s. After that, crime drops sharply as adults reach their 30s and 40s. The National Research Council study concludes:

“Because recidivism rates decline markedly with age, lengthy prison sentences, unless they specifically target very high-rate or extremely dangerous offenders, are an inefficient approach to preventing crime by incapacitation.”

As a result, the excessive sentencing practices in the U.S. are largely counterproductive and extremely costly.


Figure 6 Criminal Justice


Significant reforms in recent years

After nearly 40 years of continued growth, the U.S. prison population has stabilized in recent years.

This is partially a result of declining crime rates, but has largely been achieved through pragmatic changes in policy and practice. For more than a decade, the political climate of criminal justice reform has been evolving toward evidence-based, commonsense approaches to public safety. This can be seen in a variety of legislative, judicial, and policy changes that have successfully decreased incarceration without adverse impacts on public safety.

At the state level:

  • California voters passed ballot measure Proposition 47 in 2014, which reclassified certain low-level property and drug crimes from felonies to misdemeanors, and will reinvest some of the fiscal savings into prevention programs
  • New York policymakers reformed the Rockefeller drug laws in 2009, which imposed harsh mandatory minimum sentences for low-level drug offenses

At the federal level:

  • In 2014, the United States Sentencing Commission unanimously voted to reduce excessive sentences for up to 46,000 people currently serving time for federal drug offenses
  • Congress passed the Fair Sentencing Act in 2010, which reduced the disparity in sentencing between crack and powder cocaine offenses
    As promising as these changes may be, we are a long way from solving our national problem of mass incarceration—and the way forward is clear.

Where do we need to go from here?

Just as a bicycle works best when it uses different gears based on the terrain, we need a justice system that has different responses for different situations—shifting gears to treatment, prevention, and long-term public safety solutions as appropriate. By taking a practical approach to criminal justice reform, we can decrease crime, enhance public safety, and make more responsible use of our resources.

In particular, we need to start by:

    • Eliminating mandatory minimum sentences and cutting back on excessively lengthy sentences; for example, by imposing a 20-year maximum on prison terms.
    • Shifting resources to community-based prevention and treatment for substance abuse.
    • Investing in interventions to that promote strong youth development and respond to delinquency in age-appropriate and evidence-based ways.
    • Examining and addressing the policies and practices, conscious or not, that contribute to racial inequity at every stage of the justice system.
    • Removing barriers that make it harder for individuals with criminal records to turn their lives around.

Filibusters And Cloture In The Senate

The filibuster is widely viewed as one of the Senate’s most characteristic procedural features. Filibustering includes any use of dilatory or obstructive tactics to block a measure by preventing it from coming to a vote. The possibility of filibusters exists because Senate rules place few limits on Senators’ rights and opportunities in the legislative process.

In particular, a Senator who seeks recognition usually has a right to the floor if no other Senator is speaking, and then that Senator may speak for as long as he or she wishes. Also, there is no motion by which a simple majority of the Senate can stop a debate and allow itself to vote in favor of an amendment, a bill or resolution, or most other debatable questions. Most bills, indeed, are potentially subject to at least two filibusters before the Senate votes on final passage: first, a filibuster on a motion to proceed to the bill’s consideration and, second, after the Senate agrees to this motion, a filibuster on the bill itself.

Senate Rule XXII, however, known as the cloture rule, enables Senators to end a filibuster on any debatable matter the Senate is considering. Sixteen Senators initiate this process by presenting a motion to end the debate. In most circumstances, the Senate does not vote on this cloture motion until the second day of session after the motion is made. Then, it requires the votes of at least three-fifths of all Senators (normally 60 votes) to invoke cloture. (Invoking cloture on a proposal to amend the Senate’s standing rules requires the support of two-thirds of the Senators present and voting, whereas cloture on nominations other than to the U.S. Supreme Court requires a numerical majority.)

The primary effect of invoking cloture on most questions is to impose a maximum of 30 additional hours for considering that question. This 30-hour period for consideration encompasses all time consumed by roll call votes, quorum calls, and other actions, as well as the time used for debate. Under cloture, as well, the only amendments Senators can offer are ones that are germane and were submitted in writing before the cloture vote took place. Finally, the presiding officer also enjoys certain additional powers under cloture such as, for example, the power to count to determine whether a quorum is present and to rule amendments, motions, and other actions out of order on the grounds that they are dilatory.

The ability of Senators to engage in filibusters has a profound and pervasive effect on how the Senate conducts its business on the floor. In the face of a threatened filibuster, for example, the majority leader may decide not to call a bill up for floor consideration or may defer calling it up if there are other, equally important bills the Senate can consider and pass with less delay. Similarly, the prospect of a filibuster can persuade a bill’s proponents to accept changes in the bill that they do not support but that are necessary to prevent an actual filibuster.

This report concentrates on the operation of cloture under the general provisions of Senate Rule XXII, paragraph 2. It identifies modifications (including temporary ones) in rules governing debate agreed to at the beginning of the 113th Congress, but the detailed provisions of these changes are addressed in CRS Report R42996, Changes to Senate Procedures at the Start of the 113th Congress Affecting the Operation of Cloture (S.Res. 15 and S.Res. 16), by Elizabeth Rybicki. This report will be updated as events warrant.


The filibuster is widely viewed as one of the Senate’s most distinctive procedural features. Today, the term is most often used to refer to Senators holding the floor in extended debate. More generally, however, filibustering includes any tactics aimed at blocking a measure by preventing it from coming to a vote.

As a consequence, the Senate has no specific rules for filibustering. Instead, possibilities for filibustering exist because Senate rules lack provisions that would place specific limits on Senators’ rights and opportunities in the legislative process. In particular, those rules establish no generally applicable limits on the length of debate, nor any motions by which a majority could vote to bring a debate to an end, or even limit it.

The only Senate rule that permits the body, by vote, to bring consideration of a matter to an end is paragraph 2 of Rule XXII, known as the cloture rule. In general, invoking cloture requires a super-majority vote (usually 60 out of 100 Senators) and, in such cases, doing so does not terminate consideration but only imposes a time limit. Cloture also imposes restrictions on certain other procedures that potentially could be used to dilatory effect. In recent years, as a result, cloture has increasingly been used to overcome filibusters being conducted not only by debate, but through various other delaying tactics.

This report discusses major aspects of Senate procedure related to filibusters and cloture. The two, however, are not always as closely linked in practice as they are in popular conception. Even when opponents of a measure resort to extended debate or other tactics of delay, supporters may not decide to seek cloture (although this situation seems to have been more common in earlier decades than today). In recent times, by contrast, Senate leadership has increasingly made use of cloture as a normal tool for managing the flow of business on the floor, even when no evident filibuster has yet occurred.

It would be erroneous to assume the presence or absence of cloture attempts is a reliable guide to the presence or absence of filibusters. Inasmuch as filibustering does not depend on the use of any specific rules, whether a filibuster is present is always a matter of judgment.It is also a matter of degree; filibusters may be conducted with greater or lesser determination and persistence. For all these reasons, it is not feasible to construct a definitive list of filibusters.

The following discussion focuses chiefly on the conduct of filibusters through extended debate and on cloture as a means of overcoming them. The report does not encompass all possible contingencies or consider every relevant precedent, but it identifies changes (including temporary ones) made in the 113th Congress. (A detailed analysis of these changes appears in CRS Report R42996, Changes to Senate Procedures at the Start of the 113th Congress Affecting the Operation of Cloture (S.Res. 15 and S.Res. 16), by Elizabeth Rybicki.) Authoritative information on cloture procedure can be found under that heading in Riddick’s Senate Procedure. 1 Senators and staff also may wish to consult the Senate Parliamentarian on any question concerning the Senate’s procedural rules, precedents, and practices.

The Right to Debate

The core rule of the Senate governing floor debate is paragraph 1(a) of Rule XIX, which states that

When a Senator desires to speak, he shall rise and address the Presiding Officer, and shall not proceed until he is recognized, and the Presiding Officer shall recognize the Senator who shall first address him. No Senator shall interrupt another Senator in debate without his consent, and to obtain such consent he shall first address the Presiding Officer, and no Senator shall speak more than twice upon any one question in debate on the same legislative day without leave of the Senate, which shall be determined without debate.

This is essentially all the Senate’s rules have to say about the right to speak on the floor, so the rule is just as important for what it does not say as for what it does say. The lack of discretion by the chair in recognizing Senators and the lack of time limits on debate combine to create the possibility of filibusters by debate.

The Right to Recognition

Rule XIX affords the presiding officer no choice and no discretion in recognition. As a general rule, if a Senator seeks recognition when no other Senator has the floor, the presiding officer must recognize him or her. The presiding officer may not decline to recognize the Senator, whether for reasons of personal preference or partisan advantage, or to enable the Senate to reach a vote on the pending matter. As a result, when the Senate is considering any debatable question, it cannot vote on the question so long as any Senator wants to be recognized to debate it.

If more than one Senator seeks recognition, Rule XIX directs the presiding officer to recognize whichever Senator is the first to do so. The result is that, although no Senator can be sure that he or she will be recognized promptly for debate on a pending question, each can be sure of recognition eventually. As Senate rules provide for no motions that could have the effect of terminating debate, a Senator can do nothing while she or he has the floor that would preclude another Senator from being recognized afterwards. (The motions to table and time agreements by unanimous consent, both of which represent partial exceptions to this statement, are discussed later.)

By well-established precedent and practice, the Senate does not comply strictly with the requirement that the first Senator addressing the chair be recognized. In practice, the party leaders receive preference in recognition. All Senators accept that the majority leader and then the minority leader must be able to secure recognition if they are to do some of the things the Senate expects them to do, such as arrange the daily agenda and weekly schedule and make motions and propound unanimous consent agreements necessary for the relatively orderly conduct of business on the floor. Accordingly, if two Senators are seeking recognition at more or less the same time and one of them is a party floor leader, the presiding officer recognizes the leader (and the majority leader in preference to the minority leader). Next after these two leaders, the presiding officer generally affords preference in recognition to the majority and minority floor managers of legislation being debated. These Senators receive this preference because they also bear responsibilities for ensuring an orderly process of considering a measure.

The Right to Speak at Length and the Two-Speech Rule

Under Rule XIX, unless any special limits on debate are in effect, Senators who have been recognized may speak for as long as they wish.2 They usually cannot be forced to cede the floor, or even be interrupted, without their consent. (There are some exceptions: for example, Senators can lose the floor if they violate the Senate’s standards of decorum in debate or, as discussed later, may be interrupted for the presentation of a cloture motion.)

Rule XIX places no limit on the length of individual speeches or the number of Senators who may speak on a pending question. It does, however, tend to limit the possibility of extended debate by its provision that “no Senator shall speak more than twice upon any one question in debate on the same legislative day without leave of the Senate, which shall be determined without debate.” This provision, commonly called the two-speech rule, limits each Senator to making two speeches per day, however long each speech may be, on each debatable question the Senate considers. A Senator who has made two speeches on a single question becomes ineligible to be recognized for another speech on the same question on the same day.

In relation to legislative business, the “day” during which a Senator can make no more than two speeches on the same question is not a calendar day but a legislative day. A legislative day ends only with an adjournment, so that, whenever the Senate recesses overnight, rather than adjourning, the same legislative day continues into the next calendar day. A legislative day may therefore extend over several calendar days. The leadership may continue to recess the Senate, rather than adjourning, as a means of attempting to overcome a filibuster by compelling filibustering Senators to exhaust their opportunities of gaining recognition. In relation to executive business (nominations and treaties), however, the legislative day does not apply and each Senator may, for example, make two speeches on each pending nomination on each calendar day on which the Senate meets.

Senators rarely invoke the two-speech rule. Sometimes, however, they may insist the two-speech rule be enforced as a means of attempting to overcome a filibuster. On such occasions, nevertheless, Senators often can circumvent the two-speech rule by making a motion or offering an amendment that constitutes a new and different debatable question. For example, each Senator can make two speeches in the same legislative day on each bill, each offered first-degree amendment to a bill, and each second-degree amendment offered to each of those amendments as well.

In recent practice, the Senate has considered being recognized and engaging in debate to constitute a speech. The Senate, however, does not consider “that recognition for any purpose [constitutes] a speech.” Currently effective precedents have held that “certain procedural motions and requests were examples of actions that did not constitute speeches for purposes of the two speech rule.” These matters include such things as making a parliamentary inquiry and suggesting the absence of a quorum. Nevertheless, if a Senator is recognized for a substantive comment, however brief, on the pending question, that remark may count as a speech.

The Motion to Table

There is one way in which the Senate can end debate on a question even though there may be Senators who still might want to speak on it. During the debate, it is normally possible for a Senator to move to table the pending question (more formally, to lay the question on the table). The motion is not debatable, and its adoption requires only a simple majority vote. In the Senate, to table something is to kill it. So when the Senate votes to table a matter, it thereby disposes of the matter permanently and adversely. The Senate sometimes disposes of amendments by voting to table them rather than by taking what often are called up or down votes to agree (or not agree) to the amendment itself.

If there is a unanimous consent agreement in effect that limits the time for debate, the motion to table may not be offered until the time is consumed. To offer the motion, a Senator must first be recognized; another Senator who has already been recognized may not be interrupted for a motion to table, no matter how long he or she has been speaking. Within these limitations, if a majority of Senators oppose a matter, the motion to table may enable them to prevail at a time of their choosing. By this means, Senators can prevent a debate from continuing indefinitely if they are prepared to reject the amendment, motion, or bill that is being debated. (If, by contrast, opponents of a matter do not command enough support to table it, they may decide to extend the debate by conducting what supporters of the matter might well characterize as a filibuster.)

The motion to table, however, offers no means for supporters of a matter to overcome a filibuster being conducted against it through the threat of extended debate. If the Senate agrees to a motion to table, the debate is brought to an end, but at the cost of defeating the matter. If the Senate votes against the tabling motion, the matter remains before the Senate and Senators can resume debating it at length.

Instead, for purposes of overcoming filibusters, the chief use of the motion to table arises when the filibuster is being conducted through the offering of potentially dilatory amendments and motions. For example, supporters of a filibuster may offer an amendment to renew their right to recognition under the two-speech rule. Each time the Senate tables such an amendment, it can continue debate on the underlying bill, or at least can go on to consider other amendments.

The Conduct of Filibusters

Conducting a filibuster by extended debate is potentially straightforward, although it can be physically demanding. A Senator seeks recognition and, once recognized, speaks at length. When that first Senator concludes and yields the floor, another Senator seeks recognition and continues the debate. Even if the Senate continues in the same legislative day, the debate can proceed in this way until all the participating Senators have made their two speeches on the pending question.

Then, it usually is possible to offer an amendment, or make some other motion, to create a new debatable question on which the same Senators can each make two more speeches.

There is no need for the participating Senators to monopolize the debate. What is important is that someone speak, not that it be someone on a given side of the question. Although one purpose of a filibuster is to try to change the minds of Senators who support the question being debated, the purpose of delay is served by any Senator speaking (or being available to initiate procedural actions) regardless of which side of the question he or she takes.

Germaneness of Debate

More often than not, there is no need for the debate to be germane to the question being considered, with one important exception. Paragraph 1(b) of Rule XIX5 requires that debate be germane each calendar day during the first three hours after the Senate begins to consider its unfinished or pending legislative business. (The time consumed by the majority and minority leaders and any speeches during “routine morning business” at the beginning of a daily session is not included in this three-hour period.) The Senate can waive this germaneness requirement by unanimous consent or by agreeing to a non-debatable motion for that purpose.

Like the two-speech rule, this germaneness requirement usually is not enforced. During filibusters, however, Senators may be called upon to comply with this requirement on debate when it is in effect. In practice, this does not put much extra burden on participating Senators because speeches made during filibusters are likely to be germane.

Yielding the Floor and Yielding for Questions

A Senator who has the floor for purposes of debate must remain standing and must speak more or less continuously. Complying with these requirements obviously becomes more of a strain as time passes. However, Senators must be careful when they try to give some relief to their colleagues who are speaking. Senate precedents prohibit Senators from yielding the floor to each other. If a Senator simply yields to a colleague, the chair may hold that the Senator has relinquished the floor. This is another Senate procedure that often is not observed during the normal conduct of business on the floor. However, during a filibuster involving extended floor debate, Senators are much more likely to insist on it being observed.

A Senator may yield to a colleague without losing the floor only if the Senator yields for a question. With this in mind, a colleague of a filibustering Senator may give that Senator some relief by asking him or her to yield for a question. The Senator who retains control of the floor must remain standing while the question is being asked. The peculiar advantage of this tactic is that it sometimes takes Senators quite some time to ask their question, and the presiding officer is reluctant to force them to state their question before they are ready to do so. In this way, participating Senators can extend the debate through an exchange of what sometimes are long questions followed by short answers, rather than by relying exclusively on a series of long, uninterrupted speeches.

Quorums and Quorum Calls

There are ways other than extended debate by which Senators can delay and sometimes even prevent the Senate from voting on a question it is considering. In particular, quorum calls can be demanded for purposes other than confirming or securing the presence of a quorum, such as to consume time.

A Senator who has been recognized can “suggest the absence of a quorum,” asking in effect whether the Senate is complying with the constitutional requirement that a quorum—a majority of all Senators—be present for the Senate to conduct business. A quorum is rarely present, and the presiding officer normally does not have the authority to count to determine whether a quorum actually is present; he or she therefore directs the clerk to call the roll.

Senators usually use quorum calls to suspend the Senate’s floor proceedings temporarily, perhaps to discuss a procedural or policy problem or to await the arrival of a certain Senator. In those cases, the clerk calls the roll very slowly and, before the call of the roll is completed, the Senate agrees by unanimous consent to call off the quorum call (to “dispense with further proceedings under the quorum call”). Because the absence of a quorum has not actually been demonstrated, the Senate can resume its business. Such quorum calls can be time-consuming and so can serve the interests of filibustering Senators.

During a filibuster, however, the clerk may be directed by the leadership to call the roll more rapidly, as if a roll call vote were in progress. Doing so reduces the time the quorum call consumes, but it also creates the real possibility that the quorum call may demonstrate that a quorum in fact is not present. In that case, the Senate has only two options: to adjourn or to take steps necessary to secure the presence of enough absent Senators to create a quorum. Typically, the majority leader or the majority floor manager opts for the latter course and makes a motion that the Sergeant at Arms secure the attendance of absent Senators, then asks for a roll call vote on that motion. Senators who did not respond to the quorum call are likely to come to the floor for the roll call vote on this motion. Almost always, therefore, the vote establishes that a quorum is present, so the Senate can resume its business without the Sergeant at Arms actually having to execute the Senate’s directive.

This process also can be time-consuming because of the time required to conduct the roll call vote just discussed. Nonetheless, the proponents of the bill (or other matter) being filibustered may prefer that the roll be called quickly because it requires unanimous consent to call off a routine quorum call, in which the clerk calls the roll very slowly, before it is completed. A filibustering Senator has only to suggest the absence of a quorum and then object to calling off the quorum call in order to provoke a motion to secure the attendance of absentees and (with the support of at least 10 other Senators) a roll call vote on that motion. If this motion is likely to be necessary, one way or the other, it is usually in the interests of the bill’s proponents to have the motion made (and agreed to) as soon as possible.

When Senators suggest the absence of a quorum, however, they lose the floor. Also, “[i]t is not in order for a Senator to demand a quorum call if no business has intervened since the last call; business must intervene before a second quorum call or between calls if the question is raised or a point of order made.” These restrictions limit the extent to which quorum calls may be used as means of conducting filibusters.

Roll Call Voting

As the preceding discussion indicates, roll call votes are another source of delay. Any question put to the Senate for its decision requires a vote, and a minimum of 11 Senators can require that it be a roll call vote. Each such vote consumes at least 15 minutes unless the Senate agrees in advance to reduce the time for voting.

The Constitution provides that the “yeas and nays” shall be ordered “at the desire of one-fifth of those present” (Article I, Section 5). Because a quorum is presumed to be present, the Senate requires at least 11 Senators (one-fifth of the minimal quorum of 51) to request a roll call vote on the pending question.

When a Senator wants a roll call vote, other Senators frequently support the request as a courtesy to a colleague. During a filibuster, however, the supporters of the bill or amendment sometimes try to discourage other Senators from supporting requests for time-consuming roll call votes. Also, the proponents sometimes can make it more difficult for their opponents to secure a roll call vote. When the request for a roll call vote is made immediately after a quorum call or another roll call vote, Senators can insist that the request be supported by one-fifth of however many Senators answered that call or cast their votes. Since this is almost certainly more than 51 and, in practice, is usually much closer to 100, the number of Senators required to secure a roll call vote can increase to a maximum of 20.

The time allowed for Senators to cast roll call votes is a minimum of 15 minutes, unless the Senate agrees, before the vote begins, to a reduced time. When the 15 minutes expire, the vote usually is left open for some additional time to accommodate other Senators who are thought to be en route to the floor to vote. Thus, the actual time for a roll call vote can extend to 20 minutes or more. During filibusters, however, a call for the regular order can lead the presiding officer to announce the result of a roll call vote soon after the 15 minutes allotted for it.

Scheduling Filibusters

The leadership typically attempts to arrange the daily schedule of the Senate so that filibusters are not unduly disruptive or inconvenient to Senators. One way to make conducting a filibuster more costly and difficult is to keep the Senate in session until late at night, or even all night, requiring the participating Senators to speak or otherwise consume the Senate’s time. During some contentious filibusters, cots have even been brought into the Senate’s anterooms for Senators to use during around-the-clock sessions.

Today, all-night sessions are very unusual. The Senate may not even convene earlier or remain in session later when a filibuster is in progress than it does on other days. One reason may be that filibusters are not the extraordinary and unusual occurrences they once were. Another may be that Senators are less willing to endure the inconvenience and discomfort of prolonged sessions. Also, leadership may react to a threat of a filibuster by keeping the measure or matter from the floor, at least for a while.

The point about longer, later sessions is important because late-night or all-night sessions put as much or more of a burden on the proponents of the question being debated than on its opponents. The Senators participating in the filibuster need only ensure that at least one of their number always is present on the floor to speak. The proponents of the question, however, need to ensure that a majority of the Senate is present or at least available to respond to a quorum call or roll call vote. If, late in the evening or in the middle of the night, a Senator suggests the absence of a quorum and a quorum does not appear, the Senate must adjourn or at least suspend its proceedings until a quorum is established. This works to the advantage of the filibustering Senators, so the burden rests on their opponents to ensure that the constitutional quorum requirement always can be met.

Invoking Cloture

The procedures for invoking cloture are governed by paragraphs 2 and 3 of Rule XXII (which also govern procedure under cloture, as discussed later in this report). The following discussion mostly addresses procedure stemming from paragraph 2, including reinterpretation of its application to certain nominations. Other recent changes in Rule XXII’s operation on selected questions are referenced in footnotes.

The process begins when a Senator presents a cloture motion that is signed by 16 Senators, proposing “to bring to a close the debate upon” the pending question. The motion is presented to the Senate while it is in session and must be presented while the question on which cloture is sought is pending. For example, it is not in order for a Senator to present a motion to invoke cloture on a bill the Senate has not yet agreed to consider or on an amendment that has not yet been offered. A Senator does not need to be recognized by the chair to present a cloture petition. The Senator who has the floor may be interrupted for the purpose but retains the floor thereafter and may continue speaking.

The motion is read to the Senate, but the Senate then returns to whatever business it had been transacting. In almost all cases, the Senate does not act on the cloture motion in any way on the day on which it is submitted or on the following day. Instead, the next action on the motion occurs “on the following calendar day but one”—that is, on the second day of session after it is presented. So if the motion is presented on a Monday, the Senate acts on it on Wednesday

During the intervening time, the Senate does not have to continue debating the question on which cloture has been proposed but can turn to other business. One hour after the Senate convenes on the day the cloture motion has ripened or matured, the presiding officer interrupts the proceedings of the Senate, regardless of what is under consideration at the time, and presents the cloture motion to the Senate for a vote.

At this point the presiding officer is required to direct that an actual (or live) quorum call take place. (The Senate often waives this quorum call by unanimous consent.) When the presence of a quorum is established, the Senate proceeds, without debate, to vote on the cloture motion: “the Presiding Officer shall, without debate, submit to the Senate by a yea-and-nay vote the question: ‘Is it the sense of the Senate that the debate shall be brought to a close?’” The terms of the rule require an automatic roll call vote.

Invoking cloture usually requires a three-fifths vote of the entire Senate—“three-fifths of the Senators duly chosen and sworn.” Thus, if there is no more than one vacancy, 60 Senators must vote to invoke cloture. In contrast, most other votes require only a simple majority (that is, 51%) of the Senators present and voting, assuming those Senators constitute a quorum. In the case of a cloture vote, the key is the number of Senators voting for cloture, not the number voting against. Failing to vote on a cloture motion has the same effect as voting against the motion: it deprives the motion of one of the 60 votes needed to agree to it.

There are two important exceptions to the three-fifths requirement to invoke cloture. First, under Rule XXII, an affirmative vote of two-thirds of the Senators present and voting is required to invoke cloture on a measure or motion to amend the Senate rules. This provision has its origin in the history of the cloture rule. Before 1975, two-thirds of the Senators present and voting (a quorum being present) was required for cloture on all matters. In early 1975, at the beginning of the 94th Congress, Senators sought to amend the rule to make it somewhat easier to invoke cloture. However, some Senators feared that if this effort succeeded, that would only make it easier to amend the rule again, making cloture still easier to invoke. As a compromise, the Senate agreed to move from two-thirds of the Senators present and voting (a maximum of 67 votes) to three-fifths of the Senators duly chosen and sworn (normally, and at a maximum, 60 votes) on all matters except future rules changes, including changes in the cloture rule itself. Second, pursuant to precedent established by the Senate on November 21, 2013, the Senate can invoke cloture on nominations other than those to the U.S. Supreme Court by a majority of Senators voting (a quorum being present).

If the Senate does vote to invoke cloture, that vote may not be reconsidered. On the other hand, it is in order to reconsider the vote by which the Senate voted against invoking cloture. In current practice, supporters of cloture sometimes enter a motion to reconsider a vote against cloture, so that a second vote on cloture can later occur without a second petition being filed. They can arrange for the second vote to take place at any point, as long as the Senate then agrees, first, to the motion to proceed to the motion to reconsider, and then to the motion to reconsider itself. Both motions are non-debatable under these circumstances and require only a simple majority vote. If the Senate agrees to the motion to reconsider, the new vote on the cloture motion then occurs immediately, and cloture is invoked if three-fifths of the full Senate (or other majority, as appropriate) now votes for it.

The Senate sometimes agrees by unanimous consent to alter the way in which various requirements of the cloture rule apply to consideration of a specified matter. In particular, Senators by unanimous consent sometimes permit a cloture motion to be filed on a matter that is not then pending. Also, as mentioned, the required quorum call preceding a cloture vote is often waived by consent. In addition, the Senate may give unanimous consent to adjust the time when the cloture vote will take place. On some occasions, the Senate has even agreed, by unanimous consent, to vote on cloture at a specified time even though no cloture motion is formally filed.

Matters on Which Cloture May Be Invoked

Any debatable question the Senate considers can be filibustered and, therefore, may be the subject of a cloture motion, unless the time for debate is limited by the Senate’s rules, by law, or by a unanimous consent agreement. Consequently, Senators may present cloture motions to end debate on bills, resolutions, amendments, conference reports, motions to concur in or amend amendments of the House, executive business (nominations and treaties), and various other debatable motions.

In relation to the Senate’s initial consideration of a bill or resolution, there usually can be at least two filibusters under the Senate’s standing rules: first, a filibuster on the motion to proceed to the measure’s consideration; and second, after the Senate agrees to this motion, a filibuster on the measure itself. If the Senate cannot agree to take up a measure by unanimous consent, the majority leader’s recourse is to make a motion that the Senate proceed to its consideration. This motion to proceed, as it is called, usually is debatable and, consequently, subject to a filibuster. Therefore, the Senate may have to invoke cloture on this motion before being able to vote on it. Once the Senate adopts the motion to proceed and begins consideration of the measure itself, a filibuster on the measure then may begin, so that cloture must be sought anew on the measure itself. Except by unanimous consent, cloture cannot be sought on the measure during consideration of the motion to proceed, because cloture may be moved only on a question that is pending before the Senate.

Threatened filibusters on motions to proceed once were rare but have become more common in recent years. In such situations, it has become common for the majority leader to move to proceed to consider the measure, immediately submit a motion for cloture on his motion to proceed, and then immediately withdraw the motion to proceed. This proceeding permits the Senate to consider other business while the petition ripens rather than having to entertain extended debate on the motion to proceed. On the second following day, if the Senate defeats the motion for cloture, it continues with other business; if cloture is invoked, the action automatically brings back the motion to proceed as the pending business but under the restrictions of cloture.

Sometimes an amendment provokes a filibuster even though the underlying bill does not. If cloture is invoked on the amendment, the operation of cloture is exhausted once the amendment is disposed of. Thereafter, debate on the bill continues, but under the general rules of the Senate. On occasion, cloture has been invoked, in this way, separately on several amendments to a bill in succession. Alternatively, cloture may be invoked on the bill itself, so that debate on the amendment continues under the restrictions of cloture on the overall measure. If the amendment is not germane to the bill, however, its supporters will oppose this approach, for (as discussed later) the cloture rule requires that amendments considered under cloture be germane. If cloture is invoked on a bill while a non-germane amendment is pending, the amendment becomes out of order and may not be further considered. In such a case it may be necessary instead to invoke cloture on the amendment to secure a final vote on it and then, after the amendment is disposed of, move for cloture on the bill as well.

After the Senate has passed a measure, additional action may be necessary so the Senate may go to conference with the House on the legislation. The motions necessary for this purpose are debatable, and as a result, supporters of the measure have occasionally found it necessary to move for cloture thereon. Conference reports themselves, unlike measures on initial consideration, are not subject to a double filibuster because they are privileged matters, so that motions to proceed to their consideration are not debatable. Inasmuch as conference reports themselves are debatable, however, it may be necessary to move for cloture on a conference report.

Occasionally, cloture has also been sought on other debatable questions, such as: motions to waive the Budget Act, overriding a presidential veto, or motions to recommit a measure with instructions that it be reported back forthwith with an amendment.

Timing of Cloture Motions

The relation of cloture motions to filibusters may depend on when the cloture motions are filed. Prior to the 1970s, consideration of a matter was usually allowed to proceed for some days or even weeks before cloture was sought or cloture might not be sought at all. In more recent decades, it has become common to seek cloture on a matter much earlier in the course of consideration, even immediately after consideration has begun. In some cases, a cloture motion has been filed, or has been deemed to have been filed, even before the matter in question has been called up. (Because the rules permit filing a motion for cloture only on a pending question, either of these actions, of course, requires unanimous consent.) When cloture is sought before any dilatory action actually occurs, the action may be an indication that the threat of a filibuster is present, or at least is thought to be present.

There often has been more than one cloture vote on the same question. If and when the Senate rejects a cloture motion, a Senator then can file a second motion to invoke cloture on that question. In some cases, Senators anticipate that a cloture motion may fail and file a second motion before the Senate has voted on the first one. For example, one cloture motion may be presented on Monday and another on Tuesday. If the Senate rejects the first motion when it matures on Wednesday, the second motion will ripen for a vote on Thursday. (If the Senate agrees to the first motion, of course, there is no need for it to act on the second.) There have been instances in which there have been even more cloture votes on the same question. During the 100th Congress (1987-1988), for example, there were eight cloture votes, all unsuccessful, on a campaign finance bill.

It also may be necessary for the Senate to attempt cloture on several different questions to complete consideration of a single measure. The possibility of having to obtain cloture first on a motion to proceed to consider a measure and subsequently also on the measure itself has already been discussed. Cloture on multiple questions may also be required when the Senate considers a bill with a pending amendment in the nature of a substitute. As already mentioned, once cloture has been invoked on a question, Rule XXII requires amendments to that question to be germane. As with other amendments, accordingly, if a pending amendment in the nature of a substitute contains provisions non-germane to the underlying bill, and the Senate proceeds to invoke cloture on the bill, further consideration of the substitute is rendered out of order. In such a case, bringing action to a conclusion may require obtaining cloture first on the substitute and then, once the substitute has been adopted, also on the underlying bill.

In current practice, it is not unusual for the majority leader to move for cloture on the underlying bill immediately after filing cloture on the amendment in the nature of a substitute. Under these circumstances, the two-day layover required for each cloture motion is being fulfilled simultaneously for both. The first cloture motion filed (on the amendment in the nature of a substitute) ripens first, at which point the Senate votes on that cloture motion. If cloture is invoked and after the Senate votes on adopting the substitute—after the possible 30 hours of postcloture consideration—the second cloture motion (on the bill) is automatically pending, having already met the two-day layover.

Effects of Invoking Cloture

In most cases, invoking cloture on a bill does not produce an immediate vote on it. In general, the effect of invoking cloture on a bill is only to guarantee that a vote will take place eventually.

Time for Consideration and Debate

In general, Rule XXII imposes a cap of no more than 30 additional hours for the Senate to consider a question after invoking cloture on it.23 This 30-hour cap is a ceiling on the time available for post-cloture consideration, not just for debate. The time used in debate is counted against the 30 hours, but so too is the time consumed by quorum calls, roll call votes, parliamentary inquiries, and all other proceedings that occur while the matter under cloture is pending before the Senate. The 30-hour period can be increased if the Senate agrees to a nondebatable motion for that purpose. Adopting this motion also requires a three-fifths vote of the Senators duly chosen and sworn.

During the period for post-cloture consideration, each Senator is entitled to speak for a total of not more than one hour. Senators may yield part or all of their time to any of four others: the majority or minority leaders or the majority or minority floor managers. None of these Senators can accumulate more than two hours of additional time for debate; but, in turn, they can yield some or all of their time to others.

There is insufficient time for all Senators to use their entire hour for debate within the 30-hour cap for post-cloture consideration. This disparity results from a 1985 amendment to the cloture rule. Before 1979, there was no cap at all on post-cloture consideration; the only restriction in Rule XXII was the limit of one hour per Senator for debate. The time consumed by reading amendments and conducting roll call votes and quorum calls was not deducted from anyone’s hour. As a result, Senators could (and did) engage in what became known as post-cloture filibusters. By offering one amendment after another, for example, and demanding roll call votes to dispose of them, Senators could consume hours of the Senate’s time while consuming little if any of their allotted hour for debate. In reaction, the Senate amended Rule XXII in 1979 to impose a 100-hour cap on post-cloture consideration. In theory, at least, this time period could accommodate the one hour of debate per Senator (but only if Senators used all of the 100 hours only for debate). Then, in 1985, the Senate agreed, without significant dissent, to reduce the 100 hours to 30 hours, while leaving unchanged the allocation of 1 hour for each Senator to debate.

The result is that there is not enough time available under cloture for each Senator to speak for an hour. In principle, 30 Senators speaking for 1 hour each could consume all the time for postcloture consideration. However, Rule XXII does provide a limited protection for all Senators by providing that, when the 30 hours expire, “any Senator who has not used or yielded at least ten minutes, is, if he seeks recognition, guaranteed up to ten minutes, inclusive, to speak only.”

Under these conditions, Senators may still be able to extend post-cloture consideration, but it typically would last little, if any, longer, than the 30 hours available under cloture. Once cloture has imposed its definitive limit on further consideration, opponents sometimes see little benefit in the limited delay they might still obtain, and rather than insist on the use of the full 30 hours, they may instead permit a final vote well before the full time expires. In this case, the Senate may agree by unanimous consent that the 30 hours be considered to run continuously, even when the Senate is not actively considering the measure or even does not remain in session.

There is one other notable difference in the Senate’s debate rules before and after cloture is invoked. As discussed above, Senate floor debate normally does not have to be germane, except when the Pastore rule applies. Under cloture, debate must be germane. This requirement derives from the language of Rule XXII that allows each Senator to speak for no more than one hour “on the measure, motion, or other matter pending before the Senate.” Senate precedents make clear, however, that Senators should not expect the presiding officer to insist on germane debate on his or her initiative. Senators wishing to enforce the requirement that debate be germane can do so by making points of order from the floor.

Offering Amendments and Motions

There are several key restrictions governing the amendments that Senators can propose under cloture that do not apply to Senate floor amendments under most other circumstances. Some of these restrictions also apply to other motions Senators may offer, or actions they may take, under cloture.

Germane Amendments Only

Under Rule XXII, only germane amendments are eligible for floor consideration under cloture. This germaneness requirement applies to the amendments that Senators offer after cloture is invoked, and the requirement applies as well to any amendments that were pending (that is, amendments that had been called up for consideration but were not yet disposed of) at the time that the Senate votes for cloture. Thus, immediately after a successful cloture vote, the majority leader or another Senator typically makes a point of order that one or more amendments that were pending when the vote began now must “fall” because they are not germane to the matter on which the Senate just invoked cloture.

This germaneness requirement helps explain why the Senate may have to invoke cloture on an amendment to a bill and then invoke cloture again on the bill itself. It is quite common for a Senate committee to report a bill back to the Senate with an amendment in the nature of a substitute—a complete alternative for the text of the bill as introduced. The Senate almost always adopts this substitute (as it has been amended on the floor) immediately before voting to pass the bill as amended by the substitute. However, it also is not unusual for some provisions in the committee substitute to render it non-germane to the bill. Thus, if the Senate invokes cloture on the bill before it votes on the committee substitute, the substitute becomes out of order as nongermane, so that the Senate cannot agree to it. To protect the committee substitute (or any other non-germane amendment the Senate is considering), the Senate can first invoke cloture on the amendment. Doing so limits further consideration of the amendment to no more than 30 more hours. If the Senate then adopts the amendment, cloture no longer is in effect and Senators can filibuster the bill as amended. However, inasmuch as the previous non-germane amendment is now part of the text of the bill, it therefore cannot now be non-germane to the bill. At this point, therefore, the Senate may again vote to invoke cloture, this time on the bill as amended.

Any Senator can appeal the chair’s ruling that a certain amendment is non-germane, allowing the Senate to overturn that ruling by simple majority vote. However, the Senate is unlikely to take this action because doing so could fundamentally undermine the integrity and utility of the cloture procedure. Unless a Senator could be confident that, under cloture, his colleagues could not offer amendments on unrelated subjects that the Senator would insist on filibustering, that Senator would have serious qualms about ever voting for cloture. On some occasions when a Senator appealed a ruling of the chair under cloture that an amendment was not germane, Senators who may have supported the amendment on its merits nonetheless voted to sustain the ruling of the chair with the long-run viability of the cloture rule in mind.

Cloture is sometimes sought not for the purpose of overcoming a filibuster by debate, but primarily to trigger the requirement for germaneness of amendments. One way in which this situation can occur may arise when Senators wish to secure floor consideration for a bill that the majority party leadership is reluctant to schedule for floor consideration. Supporters of the bill may offer the text of that bill as a non-germane amendment to another bill that the majority party leadership is eager to pass. Opponents of the amendment may respond by moving for cloture on the bill, then prolonging the debate so as to prevent a vote on the amendment until the time comes for voting on the cloture motion. If the Senate votes to invoke cloture, the non-germane amendment is subject to a point of order. In this way, its opponents can dispose of the amendment adversely without ever having to vote on it, or even on a motion to table it—but only, of course, if they can mobilize three-fifths of the Senate to vote for cloture. This possibility, which is more than hypothetical, illustrates that not every cloture vote takes place to overcome a filibuster that is already in progress.

Amendments Submitted in Advance

Under the general cloture procedures of paragraph 2 of Rule XXII, to be in order after cloture has been invoked, amendments must be submitted at the desk in writing (and for printing in the Congressional Record) before the cloture vote takes place. There are different requirements for first-degree amendments (amendments to change the text of a bill or resolution) and seconddegree amendments (amendments to change the text of a pending first-degree amendment). The relevant portion of Rule XXII reads.

Except by unanimous consent, no amendment shall be proposed after the vote to bring the debate to a close, unless it had been submitted in writing to the Journal Clerk by 1 o’clock p.m. on the day following the filing of the cloture motion if an amendment in the first degree, and unless it had been so submitted at least one hour prior to the beginning of the cloture vote if an amendment in the second degree.

Senators sometimes submit a large number of amendments to a bill for printing in the Congressional Record even before a cloture motion is presented. In some cases, this may be understood or intended as a signal that the Senators who submitted the amendments are contemplating a filibuster.

In practice, the deadline in Rule XXII usually gives Senators most or all of a day after cloture is proposed to draft germane amendments to the bill. (Submitting an amendment in writing does not exempt that amendment from the restriction that only germane amendments are in order under cloture.) Senators then usually have most or all of the next day to review those first-degree amendments and to decide what second-degree amendments, if any, they might offer to them. In this way, Senators can be fully aware of all the amendments they may encounter under cloture before they vote on whether or not to invoke cloture.

Rule XXII establishes no separate deadline for submitting amendments in the nature of a substitute (i.e., substitutes for the full text of a measure), which are amendable in two degrees— that is, an amendment to an amendment in the nature of a substitute is a first-degree amendment. An amendment in the nature of a substitute might be submitted at any time up to the deadline for first-degree amendments. If it were submitted just before that deadline, Senators might have essentially no time to prepare amendments to it, because they, as first-degree amendments, would be subject to the same deadline as the substitute.

One result of these requirements is that, whenever cloture is proposed, Senators and their staffs must decide whether they need to prepare and submit amendments to the measure. When the Senate has voted to invoke cloture on a bill, it is too late for a Senator then to think about what amendments to the bill he or she might want to propose. When a cloture motion is filed, Senators often conclude that they need to proceed with drafting whatever amendments they might want to offer, on the assumption that the Senate will approve the motion two days later. One result is that there often are significantly more amendments submitted for printing in the Record than Senators actually offer after cloture is invoked.

Under cloture, a Senator may not modify an amendment that he or she has offered. Permitting modifications would be inconsistent with the principle implicit in the cloture rule that Senators should be able to know what amendments may be offered under cloture before the Senate decides if it will invoke cloture. In addition, if an amendment is submitted and called up after a cloture motion is filed, is then modified while the cloture motion is pending, and is still pending when cloture is invoked, then the amendment is no longer in order and falls, because the amendment, in its modified form, did not meet the filing deadline for an amendment to be considered under cloture.

Rule XXII permits only one limited circumstance in which Senators are allowed to change the amendments they offer under cloture. If a measure or other matter is reprinted for some reason after the Senate has invoked cloture on it and if the reprinting changes page and line numbers, amendments that otherwise are in order will remain in order and can be reprinted to make conforming changes in page and line numbering.

Multiple Amendments

Rule XXII states that “[n]o Senator shall call up more than two amendments until every other Senator shall have had the opportunity to do likewise.” The evident purpose of this provision is to prevent some Senators from dominating the Senate’s proceedings under cloture. This restriction, which Senators have rarely, if ever, chosen to enforce, does not create a significant problem for those wishing to consume the time available for post-cloture consideration. From their perspective, what is most important is that amendments be offered, not who offers them.

Dilatory Amendments and Motions

Rule XXII provides that no dilatory motion or amendment is in order under cloture. Under these circumstances, the Senate has established precedents that empower the presiding officer to rule motions and amendments out of order as dilatory without Senators first making points of order to that effect from the floor. Presiding officers rarely have exercised this authority. On occasion, however, and whether at their own initiative or in response to points of order, presiding officers have ruled amendments and various kinds of motions to be dilatory and, therefore, not in order under cloture. For example, motions to adjourn, postpone, recess, suspend the rules, and reconsider have been held to be dilatory. There also is precedent supporting the authority of the presiding officer to rule that a quorum call is dilatory under these circumstances.

Under normal Senate procedures, appeals from rulings of the chair usually are debatable (though they also are subject to tabling motions). Under cloture, however, appeals are not debatable. In extraordinary circumstances, appeals from rulings of the chair have even been ruled out of order as dilatory.

Reading and Division of Amendments

Under Senate rules, each amendment that is offered must be read before debate on it may begin. The reading may be waived either by unanimous consent (as it typically is) or by a non-debatable motion in cases of certain amendments that are pre-filed and available in the Record. Under Rule XXII, however, the reading of any amendment automatically is waived if it “has been available in printed form at the desk of the Members for not less than twenty-four hours.” This requirement usually is satisfied because amendments considered under cloture must have been submitted for printing before the cloture vote.

Also, under normal Senate procedure any Senator can demand that an amendment be divided into two or more component parts if each part could stand as an independent proposition (but amendments in the form of motions to strike out and insert are not divisible). Under cloture, however, a Senator cannot demand as a matter of right that an amendment be divided.

The Authority of the Presiding Officer

When the Senate is operating under cloture, the Senate’s presiding officer has powers that he or she does not have under the Senate’s regular procedures. Under normal Senate procedure, in particular, the chair is not empowered to count whether a quorum is present on the floor. When a Senator suggests the absence of a quorum, the chair’s only response is to direct the clerk to call the roll. Under cloture, however, the presiding officer can count to ascertain the presence of a quorum (although if no quorum is present, the quorum call would ensue).

Under cloture, as well, the presiding officer may rule amendments and motions out of order at his or her own initiative, without waiting for Senators to make a point of order from the floor. In current practice, however, as noted earlier, non-germane and dilatory amendments typically fall on a point of order made by the majority leader immediately after cloture has been invoked.

Business on the Senate Floor

Cloture also affects the consequences of a filibuster for other legislative and executive business that the Senate could conduct. Rule XXII provides that once the Senate invokes cloture, “then said measure, motion or other matter pending before the Senate, or the unfinished business, shall be the unfinished business to the exclusion of all other business until disposed of.” If the Senate invokes cloture on a bill, in other words, the rule requires the body to continue to consider that bill until it completes action on it.

The rule provides no mechanism for the Senate to set aside the matter being considered under cloture, even temporarily, in order to consider other matters, even those that are of an emergency nature or far less contentious. As a result, a filibuster can affect the fate not only of the matter that provokes it, but also other matters that the Senate may not be able to consider (or at least not as soon as it would like) because of the filibuster. In practice, however, the Senate often provides by unanimous consent for the consideration of other matters. Arrangements of this kind permit the Senate to accomplish necessary routine business, or make progress on other matters, at the same time as it continues to move toward a final resolution of the matter on which it has invoked cloture.

The Impact of Filibusters

Obviously, a filibuster has the greatest impact on the Senate when the requisite support cannot be assembled to invoke cloture. In that case, the measure or other matter that is being filibustered will not receive chamber approval unless its opponents relent and allow the Senate to vote on it. Even if cloture is invoked, however, a filibuster can significantly affect how, when, and even whether the Senate conducts its legislative and executive business. For this reason, filibusters and the prospect of filibusters shape much of the way in which the Senate does its work on the floor.

Impact on the Time for Consideration

In principle, a truly determined minority of Senators, even one too small to prevent cloture, usually can delay for as much as two weeks the time at which the Senate finally votes to pass a bill that most Senators support. Table 1 summarizes a hypothetical example for a typical bill. In this example, a motion to proceed to the bill’s consideration is made on a Monday (Day 1). If a filibuster on that motion is begun or is anticipated, proponents of the motion and the bill can present a cloture motion on the same day. However, under Rule XXII, the cloture vote on the motion to proceed does not take place until Wednesday (Day 3). Assuming the Senate invokes cloture on Wednesday, there then begins the 30-hour period for post-cloture consideration of the motion. If the Senate is in session for 8 hours per day, Monday through Friday, the 30-hour period, if fully consumed, will extend over almost 4 full days of session, or at least until the end of the Senate’s session on the following Monday (Day 6). If, at that time, the Senate votes for the motion to proceed, the bill’s opponents then may begin to filibuster the bill itself, requiring another cloture motion, another successful cloture vote (on Day 8), and the expiration of another 30-hour period for post-cloture consideration. Under these conditions, Rule XXII would require that the vote on final passage occur on the 11th day of consideration, or the 15th calendar day after the motion to proceed was made.


Cloture Table 1


How long an actual filibuster can delay final Senate action may be affected by the answers that can be given, in the individual case, to many questions. These include

  • Is cloture proposed as soon as the motion to proceed is made, and then again as soon as possible after the Senate takes up the bill (after having agreed to the motion to proceed)?
  • Can the bill’s supporters secure the 60 votes needed to agree to the first cloture motion on the motion to proceed, or is more than one attempt necessary before the Senate votes for cloture on the motion?
  • Similarly, does the Senate adopt the first cloture motion on the bill itself, or is cloture invoked on the bill only on a second or subsequent attempt?
  • Can the Senate agree by unanimous consent to expedite the process by providing for votes on cloture before the expiration of time specified in Rule XXII?
  • Are the bill’s opponents willing and able to consume the entire 30-hour period for post-cloture consideration of the motion to proceed, and also the same amount of time for post-cloture consideration of the bill?
  • After the Senate invokes cloture, for how many days, and for how many hours per day, is the Senate in session to consider the bill? Does the Senate meet late into the evening, or all night, or on the weekend, in order to consume both.

$0 Is The Cost Of Making Public Colleges Tuition Free

Getting rid of tuition at America’s public colleges might seem like a silly liberal fantasy. But what if we could do it without spending any extra money on higher education? This video explains how it might work. For those who want to get into the nitty-gritty, here are data sources on tuition spending, the federal financial aid budget, undergraduate enrollment, and Pell Grants.


The Battle To Protect The Vote

The right to vote is the cornerstone of American democracy. The free exercise of the franchise is essential to the preservation and protection of all other constitutional rights. It serves as a check on America’s political leaders and as a source of power for citizens. In this way, the vote is a tangible measure both of what we are as a nation and of what we aspire to be.

The question that every American should ask is: How can we collectively encourage more people to participate in the political process?

Instead of embracing this important principle of inclusion, however, too many states have recently sought to make it harder for Americans to vote in the 2014 elections through concerted legislative efforts or policy decisions. Today, the United States is experiencing an assault on voting rights that is historic in its scope and in its intensity.

Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s devastating 2013 decision in Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder —which invalidated core protections in the Voting Rights Act, or VRA—15 states launched attacks on voting rights in advance of the 2014 midterm elections. This report estimates the impact of this assault on the ability of communities of color to participate in the 2014 midterm elections in five of those states—Texas, Alabama, North Carolina, Virginia, and Georgia—each of which has seen a significant population increase in communities of color.

While the precise impact of strict voting laws on the results of the 2014 midterm elections is still unknown, it is clear that the number of people predicted to face increased difficulties in voting during this election either approaches or exceeds the margins of victory for competitive statewide races.

Moreover, consistent with a recent report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office, or GAO, finding that photo ID laws lower voter turnout, especially among voters of color, this report highlights the decreases in turnout from previous midterm elections in the three states—Texas, Alabama, and Virginia—that implemented such laws for the first time in 2014.

Thus, the available evidence from this election season strongly suggests that the new restrictions on the right to vote disfranchised large numbers of voters.

These concerted voter suppression efforts are a direct response to the country’s changing demographics and to the lack of federal oversight resulting from the Shelby County decision in jurisdictions with a virulent history of discrimination. The 2010 Census indicates that people of color will comprise a majority of the nation’s population by 2043. At the same time, voter participation by people of color reached record levels in the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections. These changing demographics and rates of voter participation foreshadow an emerging political landscape in which people of color will play a critical role—even in places where they will not make up a majority of the electorate. It is precisely because of this increased electoral strength that communities of color continue to face a backlash that is more intense than it has been in generations.

These changes also only came about in the aftermath of Shelby County v. Holder, the shameful June 2013 decision in which a narrow majority of justices on the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Section 4(b) of the VRA, thereby suspending Section 5 of the law. Known as the crown jewel of civil rights laws, Sections 4(b) and 5 together served as the nation’s discrimination checkpoint. Section 4(b) contained a coverage provision that identified states with a history of discrimination in voting, including Texas, Alabama, North Carolina, Virginia, and Georgia, among others. Section 5 required these covered states to submit all voting changes for a process known as “preclearance” before they went into effect.

Preclearance required the states discussed here—and certain other jurisdictions— to receive confirmation from a federal court in Washington, D.C., or the U.S. Department of Justice that any new proposed voting laws were nondiscriminatory before those laws could be implemented. For 50 years, Section 5 provided critical protection for millions of voters of color—African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, American Indians, and Alaskan Natives. However, by striking down Section 4(b), the Supreme Court immobilized the Section 5 preclearance process. The Shelby County decision is akin to letting someone keep their car but taking away the keys. The Court’s decision has left millions of Americans of color even more vulnerable to racial discrimination in places where discrimination has been the most persistent and adaptive.

Similar to the racially discriminatory Jim Crow laws of the early 20th century, these modern day iterations of past laws—which include strict photo identification laws, reductions to early voting and same-day registration, and limits on third-party registration—are direct responses to the nation’s recent demographic shift and changes to the legal landscape. Each of the five states analyzed in this report was formerly covered by Sections 4(b) and 5, experienced a relative increase in its minority population, and employed discriminatory voting laws in 2014.

This report focuses on the impact of voting restrictions in Texas, Alabama, North Carolina, Virginia, and Georgia, listed in order of the number of negatively affected voters, for the following reasons:

  • Citizens of color in each of these states participated in the past two presidential elections in record numbers and comprised a larger share of the eligible voting population than ever before.
  • The data provided by the 2010 Census demonstrate that communities of color in these states—and eligible voters within those populations—are expanding rapidly and are on track to continue this accelerated growth for the foreseeable future.
  • Each state introduced at least one new restrictive voting law or voter suppression policy that applied in the 2014 elections and disproportionately affected people of color
  • Four of these five states—with the exception of North Carolina—experienced sharp decreases in voter turnout from the 2010 midterm elections, likely due, at least in part, to these laws making it harder to vote in 2014.

To combat these challenges, this report proposes that Americans who value and seek to safeguard the fundamental right to vote for all citizens take the following actions:

  • Urge lawmakers to repeal the various laws that suppress the vote
  • Urge Congress to immediately restore Section 4(b) of the Voting Rights Act by passing the Voting Rights Amendment Act
  • Closely monitor and report voter suppression to the appropriate authorities and groups, including the NAACP Legal Defense Fund
  • Engage in massive voter registration as a potential antidote to massive voter suppression

The lawmakers and elected official who are passing laws and adopting polices to thwart the fundamental right to vote are organized. To effectively counter these attacks, those who value democracy must also launch an organized response to protect and advance the most sacred democratic right—the right to vote.

Effect of voter suppression in five states

This section examines five states—Texas, Alabama, North Carolina, Virginia, and Georgia— where new restrictive voting laws were in effect in 2014. In each state, the authors compare the estimated number of “affected” voters—in other words, the number of voters who may have been unable to vote as a direct result of a new law—with the margin of victory for competitive statewide elections held in 2014. In states that featured both contested senatorial and gubernatorial races, the authors cite the average margin of victory in each individual race.

While it is too early to identify exactly how many voters were unable to vote as a result of these restrictive new laws in 2014, the estimates presented here are based on court documents and analyses conducted by the state governments implementing these changes in the law. In addition, this report includes stories about real people who encountered barriers to voting on Election Day 2014.


Method: Strict photo identification law

Estimated number of eligible voters negatively affected: 1,200,000 people

Margin of victory in 2014 gubernatorial race: 957,973 votes

Margin of victory in 2014 Senate race: 1,260,816 votes

Average margin of victory in 2014 Senate and gubernatorial races: 1,107,561 votes

Percent change in the African American population between 2000 and 2010: 27.1 percent

Percent change in the Latino population between 2000 and 2010: 41.8 percent


Battle Vote Figure 1


In Texas, one of the most restrictive photo ID laws in the country was in effect during the 2014 midterm elections.

The Texas legislature passed a strict photo ID law in May 2011 that requires voters to show one of seven forms of identification in order to cast a ballot. In March 2012, the U.S. Department of Justice blocked the law under the Voting Rights Act, determining that hundreds of thousands of registered voters lacked the proper identification and that Hispanic-surnamed voters made up a disproportionate share of those who lacked the required photo ID. Before the 2012 elections, a panel of three federal court judges also rejected Texas’ law under Section 5 of the VRA, declaring it the most restrictive voter ID law in the country.

That decision was in place until June 25, 2013. That day, just hours after the Supreme Court released the decision in Shelby County v. Holder, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott announced, “the State’s voter ID law will take effect immediately.”

Shortly after its implementation, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, its co-counsel at the law firm WilmerHale, and other allies challenged Texas’ discriminatory law under Section 2 of the VRA and the U.S. Constitution. During a two-week trial, U.S. District Court Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos heard the testimony of nearly 40 witnesses, including Sammie Louise Bates. Ms. Bates testified that Texas’ photo ID requires her to purchase a $42 birth certificate from her native Mississippi before she can vote. She said that because she lives on a modest fixed income of just a few hundred dollars per month, she had “to put the $42 where it would do the most good. We couldn’t eat the birth certificate.”

At trial, plaintiffs’ experts established that, incredibly, Ms. Bates was only one of more than 600,000 registered voters and 1.2 million eligible voters in Texas who did not have the ID that the state required.

On October 9, 2014, Judge Ramos issued a comprehensive, 147-page ruling finding that Texas’ law “was imposed with an unconstitutional discriminatory purpose,” violates the VRA, and constitutes an unconstitutional poll tax. No court had ever before found that a photo ID law was enacted with a discriminatory purpose. One week later, however, the Supreme Court permitted the law to go into effect temporarily for the 2014 elections while the case faces appeal. This means that African American and Latino voters participated in an election subject to a law that a federal district court found intentionally discriminates against them.

While the Supreme Court’s failure to block the intentionally discriminatory law that deprived up to 1 million citizens of their right to vote in the midterm election, the 2014 Texas races for U.S. Senate and governor were decided by an average of only 1,107,561 votes. Moreover, projected voter turnout in Texas was just 33.6 percent in 2014, down from 37.5 percent in 2010, which may be partly attributable to the photo ID requirement.

Imani Clark, an African American college student at Prairie View A&M University and a NAACP Legal Defense Fund client in the Texas photo ID case, was prevented from voting in Texas’ midterm election. Incredibly, while Texas’ photo ID law does not permit Ms. Clark to use her student ID to vote, as she has in past elections, Texas does allow a person to show a concealed handgun license to vote.

On Election Day, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund met other African American college students who had heard about Judge Ramos’ decision and came to the polling place to vote with student IDs. Unfortunately, because of the Supreme Court’s last-minute decision to allow the law to go into effect—ostensibly based on a desire to prevent voter confusion —many other students similar to Ms. Clark were turned away for lack of sufficient ID.

Ms. Clark and these students were not alone.

According to The New York Times, initial reports from election officials in eight of Texas’ 254 counties showed that more than 500 provisional ballots cast by voters who lacked the required photo ID went uncounted following the 2014 election. In Houston’s Harris County, 229 ballots went uncounted; 99 ballots were discarded in Dallas County, as were 27 ballots in San Antonio’s Bexar County. While determining the total number of provisional ballots left uncounted due to Texas’ ID law indicates part of the law’s negative impact on the 2014 elections, many voters without acceptable photo ID likely did not show up at the polls. This means their disenfranchisement was unrecorded.


Method: Strict photo identification law

Estimated number of registered voters negatively affected: 250,000 to 500,000 people

Margin of victory in 2014 gubernatorial race: 320,139 votes

Percent change in the African American population between 2000 and 2010: 9.6 percent

Percent change in the Latino population between 2000 and 2010: 144.8 percent


Battle Vote Figure 2


In Alabama, a strict photo ID law was in effect for the first time during the 2014 midterm elections. Although Alabama already required identification at the polls, the new law passed in 2011 specifies that the identification must include a photograph. This photo ID law limits the types of identification allowed and invalidates formerly permissible forms of identification such as utility bills, Social Security cards, and birth certificates, among others.

Alabama was covered under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which required state officials to submit this more rigorous photo ID requirement for preclearance under Section 5 before enforcing it. But Alabama never did so. Instead, Alabama’s attorney general and secretary of state avoided this legal question by waiting until the day after the U.S. Supreme Court’s Shelby County v. Holder decision to announce that the new photo ID law would go into effect for the 2014 elections.

A recent analysis conducted by Alabama Secretary of State Jim Bennett and the Alabama Department of Public Safety revealed that roughly 500,000 registered voters in Alabama lacked a driver’s license or state non-driver ID—the most common forms of photo ID of those acceptable for voting. That number represents 20 percent of registered voters in Alabama. Secretary Bennett estimates that half of those 500,000 adults own one of the other acceptable forms of photo ID under the state law, but even that assessment brings the total number of affected individuals to 250,000 people.

For instance, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund determined in September that at least 282 ballots in the state’s June 3 primary election were not counted because of this new law.46 Additionally, about 40 percent of those discarded ballots came from counties with majority African American populations, while election officials in two Alabama counties with overwhelmingly white populations illegally waived the photo ID requirement for absentee voters.

Alabama’s experience with implementing this law also exemplifies the difficulty of providing a nominally free voter ID card, which is often cited as a catchall solution to voter suppression. The Alabama secretary of state’s office sent out mobile ID-issuing units to 92 sites in all 67 Alabama counties to provide free photo ID cards. But only 5,070 people had received an ID through the program as of November 2014, according to Alabama Deputy Secretary of State Emily Marsal. In most instances, the secretary of state’s office chose to set up temporary mobile units during limited weekday hours that are inconvenient for hourly wage workers and at locations that are inaccessible to people who do not own a vehicle.

Furthermore, Secretary of State Bennett has repeatedly interpreted the voter ID law narrowly by limiting the effectiveness of the law’s fail-safe provision for voters who lack photo ID and prohibiting the use of photo ID issued by public housing authorities.

Unfortunately, in the November 2014 election, this last decision that prohibited public housing IDs disfranchised a 92-year-old great-grandmother because, although she had a public housing ID, she lacked the types of photo ID required under Alabama’s law. Other voters, including a woman who possessed no forms of photo ID, were also turned away or forced to cast a provisional ballot.

Indeed, after the 2014 elections, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund learned that, once again, hundreds of ballots went uncounted because of the photo ID law. In Birmingham’s Jefferson County, the most populous county in Alabama, 119 of the 151 provisional absentee ballots cast there were not counted because voters did not submit the required ID. In Choctaw County, 21 of the 22 absentee ballots cast also were discarded due to a lack of photo ID. Alabama was the only state with a strict photo ID law for mail-in absentee voters in effect for the 2014 elections. While many more provisional ballots cast by people without photo ID in Alabama’s 67 counties were also likely left uncounted, most people affected by the law probably did not cast a ballot, leaving little hard evidence of their disfranchisement.

Thus, even with the lower estimate of 250,000 people without the required photo IDs, this law may have had a significant effect: The margin of victory for the gubernatorial race in Alabama was just 320,139 votes.

Moreover, the projected voter participation rate in the 2014 midterm elections in Alabama was just 41 percent—the first time the rate has dipped below 50 percent since 1986.

North Carolina

Method: Cut early voting from 17 days to 10 days

Estimated number of registered voters negatively affected: 200,000 people

Margin of victory in 2014 Senate race: 48,511 votes

Percent change in the African American population between 2000 and 2010: 21.1 percent

Percent change in the Latino population between 2000 and 2010: 111.1 percent


Battle Vote Figure 3


In August 2013, just two months after Shelby County v. Holder ended the enforcement of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, the North Carolina legislature passed sweeping voting legislation that cut early voting from 17 days to 10 days, eliminated same-day registration, and requires voters to present government-issued photo identification at the polls—this latter requirement will take effect in 2016.

Specifically, this report looks only at the early-voting provision of the law, which took effect for the first time in 2014. In the 2010 midterm election, 200,000 North Carolinians voted during the seven days of early voting that were eliminated under the new law. Although these voters have other opportunities to go to the polls and vote, the law creates an unnecessary burden by eliminating those extra days.

Moreover, the law has a clear discriminatory impact. In the 2012 general election, 70.49 percent of African American voters cast their ballot during the early-voting period, compared with 51.87 percent of white voters. A common feature of early voting in North Carolina is a voter turnout effort known as “Souls to the Polls,” a tradition in which African American churches provide transportation to earlyvoting locations after Sunday services. The new law greatly curtailed this voting opportunity by limiting the number of early voting Sundays from two to one.

Importantly, the 2014 Senate race in North Carolina was decided by only 48,511 votes.


Method: Strict photo identification law

Estimated number of registered voters negatively affected: 198,902 people

Margin of victory in 2014 Senate race: 16,727 votes

Percent change in the African American population between 2000 and 2010: 14.7 percent

Percent change in the Latino population between 2000 and 2010: 91.7 percent


Battle Vote Figure 4


The Virginia legislature passed a strict voter ID law in March 2013, which requires voters to show a valid Virginia driver’s license, passport, Virginia college or university photo ID card, or other government-issued photo ID in order to cast a ballot.

Because of the state’s history of racial discrimination, the law was covered under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, requiring the state to seek approval from the U.S. Department of Justice or a federal court for the new photo ID law before it could go into effect. However, the very day that the Shelby County v. Holder decision came down from the Supreme Court, then-Governor Bob McDonnell’s office stated that the law would be able to move forward without federal preclearance. Virginia’s new strict voter ID law took effect on July 1, 2014, and was in place for the first time during the 2014 midterm elections.

The Virginia Department of Elections reported in September that 198,902 Virginia voters lacked driver’s licenses, the most common form of identification in the state. Voters were able to obtain a free photo ID card if they could prove their eligibility at their local registrar’s office. However, as of late September, a spokeswoman for the Virginia Department of Elections said that, as reported by ThinkProgress, “just 1,083 such photo IDs have thus far been issued, a tiny fraction of the potential total.” Moreover, a political science professor at the University of Mary Washington stated that the law would have a disproportionate impact on low-income voters and African American voters, who are generally less likely to have state-issued identification.

As one example of the impact of this new law, a 93-year-old Virginia woman named Virginia Whittaker who had been voting for 72 years was turned away during the 2014 midterm elections. Her driver’s license had expired in 2012, and preparations for an upcoming surgery prevented her from securing other state-issued identification.

The likely suppression of low-income and African American voters may have had a significant impact on elections in Virginia, particularly considering that the 2014 Senate race was decided by just 16,727 votes.

Moreover, projected voter turnout in Virginia was just 36.7 percent—down from 44 percent in 2006. This revelation comes on the heels of report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office, Congress’ research arm, attributing declines in voter turnout in the 2012 election—2 percent in Kansas and between 2.2 percent and 3.2 percent in Tennessee, with greater decreases among younger and African American voters—to voter ID laws.


Method: Secretary of state failed to add newly registered voters to the rolls

Estimated number of eligible voters negatively affected: 40,000 people

Margin of victory in 2014 gubernatorial race: 202,636 votes

Margin of victory in 2014 Senate race: 200,939 votes

Average margin of victory in 2014 Senate and gubernatorial races: 201,788 votes

Percent change in the African American population between 2000 and 2010: 27.6 percent

Percent change in the Latino population between 2000 and 2010: 96.1 percent


Battle Vote Figure 5


Georgia legislators have made numerous attempts to suppress the vote in recent years, including passing of one of the nation’s first photo ID laws. The most recent attack on the right to vote took an especially pernicious form: delayed processing of newly registered voters by Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp.

This year, Georgia was home to a number of voter registration drives aimed at making registration accessible and available in communities of color. One nonpartisan organization, the New Georgia Project, collected voter registration forms for more than 86,000 voters alone, and parallel efforts resulted in the total registration of between 130,000 and 150,000 new voters, many of them people of color.9However, the New Georgia Project compared its registration database to the state’s public database in late August and found that about 40,000 of its new registrants were not on the state’s voting rolls.

Secretary Kemp’s failure to add newly registered voters to the rolls within a reasonable time frame appears to have caused confusion among voters. Diamond Walton, an 18-year-old freshman at Columbus State University, registered to vote in August but only received her official state registration card in late October.97 As Georgia NAACP President Francys Johnson told ThinkProgress, this kind of delay and confusion “may discourage people from going to out to vote [sic], and those who do go won’t know where to go, and they’ll be shuffled around from polling place to polling place.”

Confusion around voter registration forms could have caused a drop in turnout: The projected voter participation rate in Georgia was 34 percent in 2014, down from 40 percent in 2010. Moreover, while 40,000 to 50,000 people may have been negatively affected by Secretary Kemp’s actions, the average margin of victory for the 2014 gubernatorial and Senate races was 201,788 votes.

The antidote to massive voter suppression

The historic participation by communities of color in the past several election cycles, including the 2014 midterms, provides an important glimpse into the possibility of sustained and meaningful political participation that reflects the country’s true and increasing diversity.

At the same time, the recent surge of restrictive and exclusionary voting initiatives is poised to derail the complete realization of this promise. The efforts represent yet another chapter in the struggle to expand American voting rights and the backlash engendered by such efforts.

The job of defending and advancing the civil rights of African Americans, people of color generally, and other vulnerable groups remains urgent and requires action.

Those who value democracy cannot stand on the sidelines and accept this assault on voting rights. Here is what must be done:

1) Support legislative solutions on the state and federal levels

First and foremost, there is an urgent need to repeal restrictive voting laws wherever they exist and support policies that make it easier to vote.

Indeed, Congress is uniquely empowered to respond to the Supreme Court’s ruling in Shelby County v. Holder by developing a new coverage provision to restore the Section 5 preclearance process that was lost when Section 4(b) of the Voting Rights Act was struck down. Affected communities—and all allies who care about civil rights—must continue to reach out to their congressional representatives to urge them to pass the bipartisan Voting Rights Amendment Act, which would enact a new Section 4(b) to bring states with a history of discrimination back under the Section 5 preclearance regime. Sections 4(b) and 5 did and could again block many of these restrictive laws and policies before their implementation.

There is also an urgent need for a grassroots, community response, which requires groups and individuals to:

2) Monitor and report voter suppression in individual communities

Without the key provision of the VRA that required certain states to report all voting changes before implementation, local advocates and activists are now the best eyes and ears on the ground. Concerned citizens should report potentially discriminatory voting changes to organizations such as the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. These changes could include moving polling places from one location to another, changing the date of an election, reducing early-voting periods, and changing the method of electing candidates, to name a few.

3) Engage in massive voter registration

As argued in “True South: Unleashing Democracy in the Black Belt 50 Years After Freedom Summer,” the best antidote to massive voter suppression is massive voter registration. Each of the five states discussed here has a substantial number of eligible but unregistered voters of color. The analysis in “True South” showed that registering just 60 percent of voters of color in each state studied here could shift the political calculus, helping voters of color elect candidates who share their concerns and are likely to protect the right to vote.



Battle Vote Table 1


It is too early to fully analyze the final impact of these new restrictive voting laws, but the raw numbers and anecdotal evidence paint a picture that justifies advocates’ continued concerns about voter ID laws.

Here is what is known at this juncture: Far from being measured reactions to discernible problems, these recent voter suppression efforts are rooted in the worst traditions of America’s contested history of democracy. Throughout the nation’s history, the expansion of opportunity and participation has often been met by reactionary measures intended to cut back on hard-won progress.

The various actions undertaken in 2014 by the five states highlighted here and others are just the latest chapter in that age-old story. As the struggle to ensure that all Americans can participate equally in the political process continues, voting rights advocates and everyday citizens must remain vigilant and do all they can to safeguard against efforts to constrict democracy in state, local, and federal elections and beyond. Our democracy requires it.

Hawaii’s National Climate Assessment

Warmer oceans are leading to increased coral bleaching and disease outbreaks and changing distribution of tuna fisheries. Freshwater supplies will become more limited on many islands. Coastal flooding and erosion will increase. Mounting threats to food and water security, infrastructure, health, and safety are expected to lead to increasing human migration.


The Hawai‘i and U.S. Affiliated Pacific Islands region includes the state of Hawai‘i, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Republic of Palau, the Territory of American Samoa, and the Territory of Guam. The Highlights section below offers a high-level overview of climate change impacts on this region, including the five Key Messages and selected topics

Key Message: Changes to Marine Ecosystems

Warmer oceans are leading to increased coral bleaching events and disease outbreaks in coral reefs, as well as changed distribution patterns of tuna fisheries. Ocean acidification will reduce coral growth and health. Warming and acidification, combined with existing stresses, will strongly affect coral reef fish communities.

Key Message: Decreasing Freshwater Availability

Freshwater supplies are already constrained and will become more limited on many islands. Saltwater intrusion associated with sea level rise will reduce the quantity and quality of freshwater in coastal aquifers, especially on low islands. In areas where precipitation does not increase, freshwater supplies will be adversely affected as air temperature rises.

Key Message: Increased Stress on Native Plants and Animals

Increasing temperatures, and in some areas reduced rainfall, will stress native Pacific Island plants and animals, especially in high-elevation ecosystems with increasing exposure to invasive species, increasing the risk of extinctions.

Key Message: Sea Level Rising

Rising sea levels, coupled with high water levels caused by tropical and extra-tropical storms, will incrementally increase coastal flooding and erosion, damaging coastal ecosystems, infrastructure, and agriculture, and negatively affecting tourism.

Key Message: Threats to Lives, Livelihoods, and Cultures

Mounting threats to food and water security, infrastructure, and public health and safety are expected to lead to increasing human migration from low to high elevation islands and continental sites, making it increasingly difficult for Pacific Islanders to sustain the region’s many unique customs, beliefs, and languages.


The U.S. Pacific Islands are at risk from climate changes that will affect nearly every aspect of life. The region includes more than 2,000 islands spanning millions of square miles of ocean. Rising air and ocean temperatures, shifting rainfall patterns, changing frequencies and intensities of storms and drought, decreasing streamflows, rising sea levels, and changing ocean chemistry will threaten the sustainability of globally important and diverse ecosystems on land and in the oceans, as well as local communities, livelihoods, and cultures.

On most islands, increased temperatures coupled with decreased rainfall and increased drought will reduce the amount of freshwater available for drinking and crop irrigation. Climate change impacts on freshwater resources will vary with differing island size and topography, affecting water storage capability and susceptibility to coastal flooding. Low-lying islands will be particularly vulnerable due to their small land mass, geographic isolation, limited potable water sources, and limited agricultural resources. Sea level rise will increase saltwater intrusion from the ocean during storms.

Rising sea levels will escalate the threat to coastal structures and property, groundwater reservoirs, harbor operations, airports, wastewater systems, shallow coral reefs, sea grass beds, intertidal flats and mangrove forests, and other social, economic, and natural resources.

Coastal infrastructure and agricultural activity on low islands will be affected as sea level rise decreases the land area available for farming,  and periodic flooding increases the salinity of groundwater.

Higher Sea Level Rise in Western Pacific

Many of Hawai‘i’s native birds, marvels of evolution largely limited to high-elevation forests, are increasingly vulnerable as rising temperatures allow mosquitoes carrying diseases like avian malaria to thrive at higher elevations. Mangrove area in the region could decline 10% to 20% in this century due to sea level rise. This would reduce the nursery areas, feeding grounds, and habitat for fish, crustaceans, and other species, as well as shoreline protection and wave dampening, and water filtration provided by mangroves. Pacific seabirds that breed on low-lying atolls will lose large portions of their breeding populations as their habitat is increasingly and more extensively covered by seawater.

Economic impacts from tourism loss will be greatest on islands with more developed infrastructure. In Hawai‘i, for example, where tourism comprises 26% of the state’s economy, damage to tourism infrastructure could have large economic impacts – the loss of Waikiki Beach alone could lead to an annual loss of $2 billion in visitor expenditures.

Because Pacific Islands are almost entirely dependent upon imported food, fuel, and material, the vulnerability of ports and airports to extreme events, sea level rise, and increasing wave heights is of great concern. Climate change is also expected to have serious effects on human health, for example by increasing the incidence of dengue fever. In addition, sea level rise and flooding are expected to overwhelm sewer systems and threaten public sanitation.

The traditional lifestyles and cultures of Indigenous communities in all Pacific Islands will be seriously affected by climate change. Drought threatens traditional food sources such as taro and breadfruit, and coral death from warming-induced bleaching will threaten subsistence fisheries in island communities. Climate change impacts, coupled with socioeconomic or political motivations, may be great enough to lead some people to relocate. Depending on the scale and distance of migration, a variety of challenges face migrants and the communities receiving them.

Healthcare Systems In The U.S. And Other Countries Explained

Healthcare Triage has created a number of videos explaining the healthcare systems in the U.S. and other prominent countries. Below is a selection of those videos to give you a better sense of how these countries provide healthcare to their citizens.


The United States






The United Kingdom