When the Senate votes to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court on Saturday, two senators will engage in a practice that’s all but died out. Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, the only Republican senator opposed to Kavanaugh’s confirmation, intends to vote “present” to offset the absence of GOP Sen. Steve Daines, who will be in Montana to attend to his daughter’s wedding.
When votes are paired on the Senate floor, senators announce their intended votes in the Congressional Record, explaining that the offsetting opposite votes will not affect the outcome.
The practice was much more common when the parties had less ideological consistency. Northern Democrats would regularly pair off with their pro-segregation colleagues from the South.
Perhaps the most recent example of pairing on a floor vote came in 2014. In this instance, Democratic Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, was against President Barack Obama’s choice to lead the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.
But Levin voted present to create what is known as a “live pair” with fellow Democrat Cory Booker of New Jersey, who was not present for the vote. Murkowski and Daines are expected to use the same procedure employed by Levin and Booker.