Anyway, with the recent filibuster in the Senate, I decided to re-examine some old history and congressional records--with surprising results. Last Wednesday, I decided to try to present the results to some sites like ThinkProgress or Crooks & Liars, but nobody has gotten back to me so I decided to dust this blog off.
Recently there has been quite a bit of discussion regarding "filibusters" in the senate, so I set out to try to check the record. Just how much was this tactic used and who probably used it?
In the last several years, most talk of filibusters have actually been about cloture votes, where the Senate needs 60 members to vote showing that they are ready to make a final vote on the subject. Most notably, during 2005 Democrats used this method to block the appointment of several judicial nominees, and the Republicans threatened to change the rules via the so-called "Nuclear Option" to bypass it.
Now, Democrats have a slim Senate majority, and Republicans are using some of the same tactics party leaders once decried.
But how much are they doing it? Let's look at the numbers for the Senate, considering when it was, how many days they were working, and how often a cloture vote failed. I'll use the acronym "FPD" to describe the assumed number of "Filibusters per day" of Senate activity. (Note that I had the rows horizontally sized to make a visible chart, but blogger strips out style attributes.)
One important caveat to these statistics is that I cannot say what number of failed cloture happened specifically to block legislation. But with the basic assumption that the minority party cannot initiate these votes and has the most reason to block them, some interesting numbers still emerge.
|2005: Republican's "Nuclear Option" threat|
|2001-2006 average: Democrats in minority|
|2007: Republicans in minority|
- Compared to 2005, when Republicans were threatening to change the rules, FPD is 5.67 times higher now that Republicans are the minority.
- Compared to the Republican-majority 2001-2006 years, overall FPD is 2.18 times higher.
- The current year has the highest FPD than any of the previous years shown.
The implications are not good for Senate Republicans: It suggests that—now that positions are reversed—they are willing to filibuster more often than the Democrats previously labeled "obstructionists" for doing the same thing.
Update: Ideally, I'd prefer to replace "failed cloture votes" with "votes where most of the votes against it came from the minority party, and where most of the minority party participated". It would be a much better metric. Unfortunately, it's difficult to get those figures from the Senate records, although if enough people show interest I may reconsider the effort.
Update: As 2007 draws to a close, I wanted to update the stats for 2007: The FPD ficgure is virtually unchanged, following the level I calculated back when I wrote this post. (~1% increase of the FPD)