01.31.2010 0

Of Cloture Votes, Filibusters, and Bullying the Senate

  • On: 02/02/2010 09:23:54
  • In: Conservative Movement
  • By Robert Romano

    Since Barack Obama took office on January 20th, 2009, Senate Republicans have sustained one, single, solitary filibuster against his agenda. Just one. That’s out of nearly 3,000 Senate bills introduced since Obama took the oath of office.

    But to hear Obama tell the story, Republicans have plugged up all of Congress’ attempts at “reform.” This, despite the fact that the Senate Democrats have had a filibuster-proof majority. Really, though, it was nothing more than a clever attempt to deflect blame for the loss of that filibuster-proof Senate to Scott Brown.

    More broadly, a desperate Obama — unable to even inspire and orchestrate his own followers — was attempting to turn public opinion against Republicans for the failure of key White House initiatives of carbon cap-and-tax and ObamaCare.

    In his first State of the Union address, Obama famously said, “And if the Republican leadership is going to insist that 60 votes in the Senate are required to do any business at all in this town — a supermajority — then the responsibility to govern is now yours as well.”

    Nice try. Only, he has left out a very important fact.

    Democrats have not technically needed a single Republican vote since July when Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) was sworn in. Since then, they have gotten their way on pretty much everything.

    For example, even when Democrats needed help on the $787 billion “stimulus” bill, they got it, when Senators Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins, and Arlen Specter crossed the aisle.

    And until Scott Brown is seated, they still will not need any Republican votes. Just last week, Ben Bernanke was confirmed to a second term with GOP support and the debt ceiling was increased from $1.9 trillion to $14.294 trillion by a 60-39 vote — and the latter did not even come on a cloture vote. Then just yesterday, cloture was invoked on Patricia Smith for Solicitor of Labor.

    Despite misleading stories attempting to portray Republicans as obstructing the Senate agenda (see: http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2010/01/the-rise-of-cloture-how-gop-filibuster-threats-have-changed-the-senate.php), a simple count of successful cloture votes in the Senate for 2009 and 2010 gainsays the self-serving allegation.

    Overall there have been 40 cloture votes so far. 36 have passed. Of the four that failed (motions 325, 320, 211, and 189), 3 were because there were not enough Democrats present and voting (in which case Reid, himself, voted No to be able to bring back the motion to reconsider).

    Of those, all three items ultimately passed: two bills and one appointment, David Hayes for Deputy Sec. of Interior, who was confirmed May 20th, 2009.

    So, the only sustained filibuster (so far) is the S. 1776 “Doc-Fix” bill, which was intended to restore Medicare cuts from the ObamaCare bill. And, on that particular vote, there were 13 Democrats total voting “no.” Not a single Republican voted for it. Ultimately, there’s no guarantee that won’t ultimately pass either.

    Other notable “No” votes that had nothing to do with cloture: the bankruptcy-mortgage “cramdowns” failed as an amendment on a supermajority vote (it didn’t even get a majority), and the creation of the debt commission amendment, which also failed as an amendment on a supermajority vote. On the latter item, Obama decided by executive order to create the commission he wanted anyway.

    The fact of the matter is that Republicans in the Senate have stopped almost nothing, because they can’t. Only 1 sustained filibuster (spearheaded by recalcitrant Democrats) out of 40 cloture votes equals a 2.5 percent success rate. Put another way, Senate Democrats have overcome almost all — 97.5 percent — of potential filibusters.

    And Obama knows it. That’s why in his speech, he chided Senate Democrats who were the real reason his signature initiatives of taking over the nation’s health care and energy industries have been delayed: “To Democrats, I would remind you that we still have the largest majority in decades, and the people expect us to solve problems, not run for the hills.”

    In other words, while Senate Republicans may have provided the bulk of the votes needed to stop things like capping carbon emissions or the health takeover, they have needed help from the Democrats to block them. And that help was readily available — much to Obama’s chagrin, and ire.

    Because now it will be that much more difficult to ram his agenda down the American people’s throats.

    Now that Scott Brown is on his way to town, Obama knows that he once again needs at least 1 Republican to break any potential filibusters. Declared Obama from the bully pulpit, “Just saying no to everything may be good short-term politics, but it’s not leadership.”

    Only the fact is, Obama is just being a bully who wants everything and will settle for nothing less. The fact that he hasn’t gotten everything he wants is not simply because of Republicans saying “No.” It’s because of his own party, who thus far have refused to say, “Yes” to everything.

    Robert Romano is the ALG Senior News Editor.

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