In parliamentary procedure, cloture (play /ˈklər/ kloh-chər) is a motion or process aimed at bringing debate to a quick end. It is also called closure or, informally, a guillotine.[1] The cloture procedure originated in the French National Assembly, from which the name is taken. Clôture is French for "ending" or "conclusion". It was introduced into the Parliament of the United Kingdom by William Ewart Gladstone to overcome the obstruction of the Irish nationalist party and was made permanent in 1887. It was subsequently adopted by the United States Senate and other legislatures.



The first closure in Canada was introduced in the House of Commons, 1913, by Conservative Prime Minister Robert Borden. The new closure rule was immediately tested by the government only a few days after its adoption during debate at the Committee of the Whole stage of the Naval Aid Bill.[2]

United Kingdom

A motion for cloture may be adopted in both the House of Commons and in the House of Lords by a simple majority of those voting. In the House of Commons, at least 100 Members must vote in favour of the motion for cloture to be adopted; the Speaker of the House of Commons may choose to deny the cloture motion if he or she feels that insufficient debate has occurred, or that the procedure is being used to violate the rights of the minority. The government often imposes a timetable on legislation in advance by way of a programme motion, under which debate automatically ceases when the allotted time expires. In the House of Lords, the Lord Speaker does not possess an equivalent power. Programme motions are often referred to as "guillotines" but never as clotures.

United States


A similar procedure was adopted in the United States. This was invoked for the first time on November 15, 1919,[3] during the 66th Congress, to end filibuster on the Treaty of Versailles.[4]

The cloture rule originally required a supermajority of two-thirds of all senators "present and voting" to be considered filibuster-proof.[5][6] For example, if all 100 Senators voted on a cloture motion, 67 of those votes would have to be for cloture for it to pass; however if some Senators were absent and only 80 Senators voted on a cloture motion, only 54 would have to vote in favor.[7] However, it proved very difficult to achieve this; the Senate tried eleven times between 1927 and 1962 to invoke cloture but failed each time. Filibuster was particularly heavily used by Democratic Senators from Southern states to block civil rights legislation.[8]

In 1975, the Democratic Senate majority, having achieved a net gain of four seats in the 1974 Senate elections to a strength of 61 (with an additional Independent caucusing with them for a total of 62), reduced the necessary supermajority to three-fifths (60 out of 100).[9] However, as a compromise to those who were against the revision, the new rule also changed the requirement for determining the number of votes needed for a cloture motion's passage from those Senators "present and voting" to those Senators "duly chosen and sworn". Thus, 60 votes for cloture would be necessary regardless of whether every Senator voted. The only time a lesser number would become acceptable is when a Senate seat is vacant. (For example, if there were two vacancies in the Senate, thereby making 98 Senators "duly chosen and sworn", it would only take 59 votes for a cloture motion to pass.)[7]

The new version of the cloture rule, which has remained in place since 1975, makes it considerably easier for the Senate majority to invoke cloture. This has considerably strengthened the power of the majority, and allowed it to pass many bills that would otherwise have been filibustered[citation needed]. (The Democratic Party had held a two-thirds majority in the 89th Congress of 1965, but regional divisions among Democrats meant that many filibusters were invoked by Southern Democrats against civil rights bills supported by the Northern wing of the party.) Some senators wanted to reduce it to a simple majority (51 out of 100) but this was rejected, as it would greatly diminish the ability of the minority to check the majority[citation needed].


The three-fifths version of the cloture rule does not apply to motions to end filibusters relating to Senate Rule changes. To invoke cloture to end debate over changing the Senate Rules, the original version of the rule (two-thirds of those Senators "present and voting") still applies.[10]

The procedure for "invoking cloture," or ending a filibuster, is as follows:

  • A minimum of sixteen senators must sign a petition for cloture.
  • The petition may be presented by interrupting another Senator's speech.
  • The clerk reads the petition.
  • The cloture petition is ignored for one full day during which the Senate is sitting. For example, if the petition is filed on Monday, it is ignored until Wednesday. (If the petition is filed on a Friday, it is ignored until Tuesday, assuming that the Senate did not sit on Saturday or Sunday.)[11]
  • On the second calendar day during which the Senate sits after the presentation of the petition, after the Senate has been sitting for one hour, a "quorum call" is undertaken to ensure that a majority of the Senators are present. However, the mandatory quorum call is often waived by unanimous consent.
  • The President of the Senate or President pro tempore presents the petition.
  • The Senate votes on the petition; three-fifths of the whole number of Senators (sixty with no vacancies) is the required majority; however, when cloture is invoked on a question of changing the rules of the Senate, two-thirds of the Senators voting (not necessarily two-thirds of all Senators) is the requisite majority. This is commonly referred to in the news media as a "test vote".

After cloture has been invoked, the following restrictions apply:

  • No more than thirty hours of debate may occur.[12]
  • No Senator may speak for more than one hour.
  • No amendments may be moved unless they were filed on the day in between the presentation of the petition and the actual cloture vote.
  • All amendments must be relevant to the debate.
  • Certain procedural motions are not permissible.
  • The presiding officer gains additional power in controlling debate.
  • No other matters may be considered until the question upon which cloture was invoked is disposed of.

The ability to invoke cloture was last attained by a US political party in the 111th Congress, by the Democrats, with the help of two independents.[13]

Line graph showing the increase over time (from 1947 to 2008) of the frequency of use of cloture votes.
Cloture Voting, United States Senate, 1947 to 2008.[14]

See also



  • Finley, Keith M. (2008). Delaying the Dream: Southern Senators and the Fight Against Civil Rights, 1938–1965. Making the modern South. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press. ISBN 978-0807133453. 


  1. ^ Brief Guide No. 14 - Debating legislation under time limits, Parliament of Australia - Senate, 2009-06-05,, retrieved 2010-12-21 
  2. ^ "House of Commons Procedure and Practice - Second Edition, 2009". Parliament of Canada. Retrieved 2011-06-24. 
  3. ^ "The Senate and the League of Nations". United States Senate. Retrieved 2008-11-19. 
  4. ^ "Filibuster and Cloture". United States Senate. 
  5. ^ Times staff, wires (2008-11-18). "Q&A: How does a filibuster work?". St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved 2008-11-19. 
  6. ^ "Democrats still in the quest for 60 Senate seats". CNN. 2008-11-04. Retrieved 2008-11-19. 
  7. ^ a b Filibusters and Cloture in the Senate, Richard S. Beth and Stanley Bach, Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress: March 23, 2003, p. 13.
  8. ^ Loevy, Robert D. (1997). The Civil Rights Act of 1964: The Passage of the Law that Ended Racial Segregation SUNY Press. p. 29.
  9. ^ "What is Rule 22?", Rule22 Blog, 5/28/2011.
  10. ^ Invoking Cloture in the Senate, Christopher M. Davis, June 4, 2007, page 2.
  11. ^ Davis, Christopher. "Invoking Cloture in the Senate".*2%3C4QLS%3E%0A. Retrieved 2011-05-25. 
  12. ^ "Virtual Reference Desk - Cloture". United States Senate. 
  13. ^ Emily Sherman (October 8, 2008). "'Perfect storm' could give Dems 'magic 60' in Senate". CNN. Retrieved 2008-11-19. 
  14. ^ "Senate Action on Cloture Motions". United States Senate. Retrieved March 1, 2010. 

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • clôture — [ klotyr ] n. f. • XIIe; altér. de l a. fr. °closure (bas lat. clausura, de claudere « clore ») par infl. des mots en ture 1 ♦ Ce qui sert à obstruer le passage, à enclore un espace. ⇒ barrière, 1. enceinte, fermeture. Mur, porte de clôture.… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Cloture — Clôture Pour les articles homonymes, voir Clôture (mathématiques). La clôture fonctionnelle des éleveurs est destinée à garder ou guider le bétail et certains animaux domestiques …   Wikipédia en Français

  • clôture — CLÔTURE. s. f. Enceinte de murailles, de haies, etc. Faire une clôture autour d un bois, d un pré, etc. La clôture de ce parc est endommagée en beaucoup d endroits. Cela n est enfermé que d une clôture de haies. [b]f♛/b] Il se prend aussi pour L… …   Dictionnaire de l'Académie Française 1798

  • cloture — clo·ture / klō chər/ n [French clôture, literally, closure]: the closing or limitation of debate in a legislative body esp. by calling for a vote cloture vt Merriam Webster’s Dictionary of Law. Merriam Webster. 1996 …   Law dictionary

  • cloture — 1871, the French word for the action of closing, applied to debates in the French Assembly, then to the House of Commons and U.S. Congress, from Fr. clôture, from O.Fr. closture (see CLOSURE (Cf. closure)). In foreign countries the Clôture has… …   Etymology dictionary

  • cloture — [klō′chər] n. [Fr clôture < OFr closture < ML clostura (altered after L claustrum: see CLOISTER] the parliamentary procedure by which debate is closed and the measure under discussion put to an immediate vote vt. clotured, cloturing to… …   English World dictionary

  • Cloture — Cl[^o] ture , n. [F.] (Parliamentary Practice) See {Closure}, 5. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Cloture — (fr., spr. Klotühr), 1) Abschluß von Rechnungen; 2) Schluß von Verhandlungen, bes. der französischen Kammern; 3) Geschrei, womit die ultra royalistische Partei in der französischen Kammer Redner von der Gegenpartei von 1814 unterbrach, um sie zu… …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • Clôture — (franz., spr. tǖr ), Schluß, insbes. in der parlamentarischen Sprache Frankreichs und Englands Schluß der Verhandlung; auch der hierauf gerichtete Antrag (Schlußantrag). Über C. auf französischen Kurszetteln s. Kurs …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

  • Clôture — (frz. Klohtür), Einzäunung, Rechnungsschluß; in den franz. Kammern Schluß der Verhandlungen …   Herders Conversations-Lexikon

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