Gov: Constitution Majority and Supermajority


congress-voting-structure
A supermajority vote is a vote that must exceed the number of votes comprising a simple majority. For example, a simple majority in the 100-member Senate is 51 votes; while a 2/3 supermajority vote requires 67 votes. In the 435-member House of Representatives, a simple majority is 218 votes; while a 2/3 supermajority requires 290 votes.

By far most measures considered by the U.S. Congress as part of the legislative process require only a simple majority vote for passage. However, some actions, like impeaching presidents or amending the Constitution, are considered so important that they require a supermajority vote.

Measures or actions requiring a supermajority vote:

Impeachment: In cases of impeaching of federal officials, the House of Representatives must pass articles of impeachment by a simple majority vote. The Senate then holds a trial to consider the articles of impeachment passed by the House. Convicting an individual requires a 2/3 supermajority vote of the members present in the Senate. (Article 1, Section 3)

Expelling a Member of Congress: Expelling a member of Congress requires a 2/3 supermajority vote in either the House or Senate. (Article 1, Section 5)

Overriding a Veto: Overriding a presidential veto of a bill requires a 2/3 supermajority vote in both the House and Senate. (Article 1, Section 7)

Suspending the Rules: Temporarily suspending the rules of debate and voting in the House and Senate requires a 2/3 supermajority vote of the members present. (House and Senate rules)

Ending a Filibuster: In the Senate only, passing a motion to invoke “cloture,” ending extended debate or a “filibuster” on a measure requires a 3/5 supermajority vote – 60 votes. (Rules of the Senate) Rules of debate in the House of Representatives preclude the possibility of a filibuster.
*Note: On November 21, 2013, the Senate voted to require a simple majority vote of 51 Senators to pass cloture motions ending filibusters on presidential nominations for Cabinet secretary posts and lower federal court judgeships only.

Amending the Constitution: Congressional approval of a Joint Resolution proposing an amendment to the U.S. Constitution requires a 2/3 majority of those members present and voting in both House and Senate. (Article 5)

Calling a Constitutional Convention: As a second method of amending the Constitution, the legislatures of 2/3 of the states (33 states) can vote to request that the U.S. Congress convenes a constitutional convention. (Article 5)

Ratifying an Amendment: Ratification of an amendment to the Constitution requires the approval of 3/4 (38) of the state legislatures. (Article 5)

Ratifying a Treaty: Ratifying treaties requires a 2/3 supermajority vote of the Senate. (Article 2, Section 2)

Postponing a Treaty: The Senate may pass a motion to indefinitely postpone its consideration of a treaty by a 2/3 supermajority vote. (Senate rules)

Repatriating Rebels: An outgrowth of the Civil War, the 14th Amendment gives Congress the power to allow former rebels to hold office in the U.S. government. Doing so requires a 2/3 supermajority of both the House and Senate. (14th Amendment, Section 3)

Removing a President from Office: Under the 25th Amendment, Congress can vote to remove the President of the United States from office if the vice president and the President’s Cabinet declare the president unable to serve and the president contests the removal. The removal of the president from office under the 25th Amendment requires a 2/3 supermajority vote of both the House and Senate. (25th Amendment, Section 4)
*Note: The 25th Amendment is an effort to clarify the process of presidential succession.

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