Roll-Call Votes and the Hagel Nomination

Late on Tuesday afternoon, the Senate confirmed the nomination of former Sen. Chuck Hagel to be the next Secretary of Defense. The vote on the confirmation was 58-41. With all Senate Democrats on record supporting the nomination–and Democrats in the majority–the nomination was not in doubt, once it came to an up-or-down vote. The key vote was the one to invoke cloture, or end the filibuster of Hagel’s nomination. There, the vote was 71-27.

A comparison of the roll-call votes in the Senate (numbers 23 and 24 of the 113th session) reveals who made the difference.  Altogether, there were 15 Republicans who split their votes. While ultimately voting to oppose Hagel’s confirmation, these Senators allowed the nomination to go forward: Alexander (TN), Ayotte (NH), Blunt (MO), Burr (NC), Chambliss (GA), Coburn (OK),  Collins (ME), Corker (TN), Flake (AZ), Graham (SC), Hatch (UT),  McCain (AZ), Murkowski (AK), Sessions (AL) and Thune (ND). Just four Republican Senators were pro-Hagel in both votes: Cochran (MS), Johanns (NE), Paul (KY) and Shelby (AL).

For ordinary citizens, this kind of analysis used to be difficult because roll-call vote information could be hard to locate. The more obscure the issue, the more difficult it was to find the voting records. The New York Times provided tables to show how members voted, but only on selected, major votes. The Congressional Record was a source for those who could visit a library that had CR in print. Beyond those, interested citizens may have had to consult  Congressional Quarterly (CQ) publications, Roll Call (the Capitol Hill newspaper), or possibly political, business or labor organizations that had a stake in the issue. In some cases, it may have been necessary for a constituent to contact the office of the Congressman or Senator directly.

Now, with Congressional and other government web sites providing House and Senate voting information, anyone with Internet access can learn how members of Congress voted on issues that matter to them–provided they know where to look.