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Filibusters Gone Wild

October 29, 2008 - by Donny Shaw

If you follow Congress at all, you’ve probably heard that in the last two years, Democrats, even though they hold the majority, haven’t been able to get much passed the Republican Minority in the Senate. To an unprecedented extent, Republicans in the Senate have used a procedural move known as cloture that requires bills to get 60 votes, rather than the standard 50, to pass. It’s basically a pre-emptive filibuster. Now that the session is just about over, I put together this graph to illustrate how anomalous the Republicans’ use of the cloture motion has been:

The data comes from I started with the 93rd session of Congress because that’s when use of the cloture motion started to pick up – before then there were only a handful of instances per session. It should be noted that some of these cloture votes – less than 10 percent – were forced by the Democrats. But that’s about proportional to the party splits in years past.

The frequency of cloture motions this session has really focused attention on whether or not the Democrats will reach a 60-vote majority in the Senate after next Tuesday’s elections. Right now, the general feeling seems to be that it’s within reach. What this would mean, assuming that their is a sympathetic President in the White House, is that Democrats would be able to fairly easily pass a lot of their policy priorities that have been blocked by Republicans this session.

Here are just a handful of the kinds of bills that have been filibustered this session, but could be passed by Democrats next session if they reach, or come near, 60:

S.3036 – Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act of 2008

H.R. 800 – Employee Free Choice Act of 2007

S. 1348 – Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007

H.R. 2831 – Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2007

S. 1257 – District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act of 2007

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