A Nap Got in the Way of the Last Tied Cabinet Vote in the Senate

If only Vice President Charles G. Dawes had woken up a little sooner …

Vice President Mike Pence arrives at the Capitol on Tuesday before he cast the first tiebreaking vote on a Cabinet nominee in Senate history. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

When Vice President Mike Pence cast his first Senate tiebreaking vote, he accomplished something no other vice president had done before — used his deciding vote as president of the Senate to confirm a Cabinet pick.

While Pence was the first to do so, he wasn’t the first to have had the opportunity. In 1925, President Calvin Coolidge named Charles Warren as his pick for attorney general. Although the Senate was run by his fellow Republicans, Warren’s nomination ran into opposition as senators criticized his connections to lobbyists. Coolidge’s vice president, Charles G. Dawes, was on tap to step in to break a tie if the vote got stalled at 40-40, according to the Senate historical database.

The bust of Vice President Charles G. Dawes. (Photo courtesy Senate.gov)
The bust of Vice President Charles G. Dawes. (Photo courtesy U.S. Senate)

When the confirmation vote was abruptly called on March 11, Dawes was nowhere to be found. Assured by leadership earlier that day that there would be no vote, he had retreated the mile and a half up Pennsylvania Avenue to his apartment in the Willard Hotel and was taking a nap as the roll call started.

Though leaders kept the vote open for him, by the time he was roused and brought back to the Capitol, a once-supportive senator had since changed his mind and the nomination was rejected 39-41, per the Senate Historical Office.

In fact, that event was the last time a Senate controlled by the president’s own party rejected a Cabinet nominee. 

Vice presidents, however, have cast plenty of tiebreaking votes on other matters over the years though the action happened a great deal more at the start of our nation’s history. Most recently, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. — a Senate fixture after serving in the chamber for decades — never had an opportunity to break a tie. 

Here’s how many tiebreaking votes every vice president in history made:

Source: U.S. Senate