How Senators Vote


For the day job, I’ve been spending quite a bit of time in the last few days watching Senators vote.  Unlike the House of Representatives, where electronic voting machines are deployed, Senators vote personally, flagging down parliamentary officials at the front of the chamber and indicating their support. They generally do it with a studied wave of the hand; the sheer variety in style suggests these American Solons take a certain amount of pride in the act. F’rinstance:

Republican Leader Mitch McConnell: The King of the Filibuster, McConnell was one of the first GOPers I saw vote to block a financial reform bill from coming to the floor. He strode straight to the podium from the door, stuck his right arm out straight from his body and pointed down emphatically in a way that I can only describe as gangasta. NAY

Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman: The Connecticut gadfly waves for attention, holds up a fist not unlike a black-power salute, waits a second — presumably to create suspense over whether he’ll stick with his caucus or not — before throwing out a straightforward thumbs up.  YEA

Republican Senator Tom Coburn: Known as Dr. No. Walks up to the podium, flags someone down and starts pointing at the ground repeatedly, pivoting lazily at the wrist, as if to say Of course I’m voting NAY.

Democratic Senator John Kerry: A Bill Clinton/Jack Kennedy-style thumbs up, with only the last joint of the thumb rising above the fist. YEA

Democratic Senator Robert Byrd: He’s brought to the floor in his wheelchair by a staffer, gives a brief thumbs up without looking up, and is promptly taken out of the chamber. YEA

Other variations include a variety of one, two- and three-fingered points up and down, hand-raising, and the occasional two-handed YEA or NAY from particularly enthusiastic members.

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One response to “How Senators Vote

  1. hilarious… out of curiosity, how do Lindsey Graham and John McCain choose to vote? I imagine their particular voting flair would be most interesting to your reading public.

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