Skip Content
U.S. Flag


The Senate has a long tradition of unlimited debate, including the filibuster, which can be used to delay legislation. In 1917, in response to pressure from President Woodrow Wilson and the crisis of the First World War, the Senate adopted a new rule establishing a procedure known as “cloture.” This allowed the Senate to end debate with a two-thirds vote of those duly chosen and sworn (67 votes in a 100-member Senate). In 1975 the Senate reduced the number of votes required for cloture from two-thirds to three-fifths (60). The Senate set a precedent in 2013 by overturning a ruling of the chair, making it possible to invoke cloture on executive nominations (other than those to the U.S. Supreme Court) by a simple majority vote. One of the most historic cloture votes came in 1964 on the Civil Rights Act.