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Super-Majority Requirements Specified in Senate Rules and Precedents
The Senate has a number of rules or precedents that require either a two-thirds or a three-fifths vote.
Constitutional Super-Majority Requirements
In the judgment of several of our Founding Fathers, among the infirmities of the Articles of Confederation was a super-majority requirement for deciding such questions as coining money, appropriating funds, and determining the size of the army and navy.
As Alexander Hamilton declaimed in Federalist No. 22, “To give a minority a negative upon the majority (which is always the case where more than a majority is requisite to a decision), is, in its tendency, to subject the sense of the greater number to that of the lesser.” Overall, the Framers generally favored decision-making by simple majority vote.
This view is buttressed by the grant of a vote to the Vice President (Article I, Section 3) in those cases where the Senators are “equally divided.” On the other hand, the Framers also recognized the virtue of super-majority votes in certain circumstances.
In Federalist No. 58, James Madison (like Hamilton a proponent of majority voting for most things) noted that super-majority votes could serve as a “shield to some particular interests, and another obstacle generally to hasty and partial measures.” Hamilton, too, in Federalist No. 73 highlighted the benefits of requiring an extraordinary majority of each chamber to overturn a president’s veto. “It establishes a salutary check upon the legislative body,” he said, “calculated to guard the community against the effects of faction, precipitancy, or of any impulse unfriendly to the public good, which may happen to influence a majority of that body.”
A majority, also called a simple majority to distinguish it from similar terms, is the greater part, or more than half, of the total.
What is a strict majority?
The strict majority rule, also called non-minority rule, is defined by: An alternative x is considered to be socially at least as good as some other alternative y iff a majority of all individuals do not prefer y to x.
What bodies have the power to override a presidential veto?
House of Representatives and the Senate
What margin is required to override a presidential veto?
2/3 vote of both houses
Where in the Constitution is the veto power described?
Article 1, Section 7, Clause2
What body has the power to ratify treaties?
What margin is required to ratify treaties?
Where in the Constitution is the ratification power described?
Article 2, Section 2, Clause 3
Who negotiates treaties?
What body has the power to impeach the president?
The House of Representative
What vote is required to impeach?
Majority Vote of the House of Representative
What is the standard for impeachment?
Treason, Bribery, other high Crimes of Misdemeanor
What body has the power to convict the president of charges brought against him in the impeachment process and thereby remove him from the presidency?
What vote is required to convict impeachment/remove a president?
2/3 of the Senate
Where in the Constitution is the impeachment power described?
Article 1, Section 3
What body has the power to accept or reject a president’s nominations to the Supreme Court?
What margins is required to elevate a president’s nominee to a seat on the Court?
Where in the Constitution are judicial nominations described?
Article 2, Section 2
What language is used to describe the role of the Senate in Supreme Court nominations?
Advice & Consent
If no candidate for the presidency wins a simple majority of the total number of electoral votes, what body has the power to choose the president?
The House of Representatives
What margin is required to choose the president?
Age 35, natural born US citizen (or a citizen at the time of the adoption of the constitution), 14 year resident within the US
Where in the Constitution is the Electoral College described? (Hint: there are two parts)
Article 2, Section 1
What’s the vote required for a president to be chosen?
Simple Majority of the Electoral College
The Constitution specifies a three-fourths majority for just one process. What?
Ratification of the Amendments
Identify two aspects of the Court’s structure and composition that the Constitution does not specify. (The Constitution does specify these two basic aspects of structure and composition for the other two branches).
1. number of people in the judicial branch
2. the requirement to be a justice
What are two ways that amendments to the Constitution can be proposed?
1. 2/3 of both houses find it necessary
2. 2/3 of the state legislatures call a Convention to amend the Constitution
What are two ways that amendments to the Constitution can be ratified?
1. 3/4 vote of each state legislature
2. 3/4 vote of the Convention
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