Al right. That is not precisely the title of the latest headline at Roll Call, but it is close. The actual headline reads, “Reid Set a Filibuster Record”. In other words, thanks to RINOs, Harry Reid became the most successful Majority Leader in terms of killing filibusters through cloture.
Keep in mind that the Democrats had 60 seats only for a short time during the 111th congress. Al Franken was sworn in as the 60th Democrat Senator on July 7, 2009, and Scott Brown was sworn in as the 41st Republican Senator on February 4, 2010. If you factor in the summer break and the month following Kennedy’s death, the Democrats only had four months with 60 Senators. Unfortunately, they didn’t need 60 Senators for cloture throughout the session. The Republicans were more than happy enough to spare the extra change for cloture, especially during the lame duck session.
Roll Call reports that, “Reid won 69 percent of his total attempts to shut down threatened filibusters in the two years of the 111th Congress that began January 2009.” They further break down the numbers between the two sessions by noting, “Reid largely achieved his record in 2009, not 2010. In the first year of the session, Reid won 35 of 39 — a stunning 90 percent — of his attempts to close debate, or invoke cloture, on a variety of measures and nominations. However, in 2010, his average dropped to 54 percent, when he won 28 cloture votes and lost 24.”
In regard to the source of the modest improvement in Republican intransigence during the second session, the article quotes a senior Democrat aid who nails it. “As the tea party showed its teeth more, you had fewer instances where [moderate Republican Senators] were willing to cross the aisle.” A very instructive observation, indeed! Although, I would point out that the “moderate Republicans” felt somewhat liberated to vacillate across the aisle once the elections were over. Also, the lower success rate for Reid in 2010 is a bit misleading anyway. Towards the end of the session, Harry Reid incessantly invoked cloture as a means to pass as much legislation as possible before Christmas. Although he failed on many of the preliminary votes, Reid succeeded on almost all of the final cloture votes on his priority issues. So while his official lame duck record was 6 for 14, he ultimately only failed on four bills. To paraphrase Lindsey Graham, “Harry Reid ate their lunch”.
According to my count, only 15 of the 63 successful cloture votes were achieved when the Democrats had 60 Senators. Even then, most of those votes garnered significant Republican support anyway. In fact, with the exception of the numerous cloture votes surrounding the health care bill, along with one or two other pieces of legislation, the Democrats would have been able to achieve cloture even without 60 Senators. In many instances throughout 2009, there were only 13-18 Republicans who opposed cloture (yes, the usual suspects like DeMint, Coburn, Inhofe, Sessions, Vitter, etc.). Many of those cloture votes concerned Executive nominees, appropriations bills, and extension of unemployment handouts.
Every one of those votes should have attracted 40 Republican nays. Instead, there were at least 20 Republican Senators who joined with the Democrats to uphold cloture on each one of those bills. Thus, it was the Republicans who granted Harry Reid almost his entire legislative victory during the 111th Senate, not Al Franken’s 60th vote. I guess Harry Reid would tell you that with Republicans like these, who needs fellow Democrats?
Another amazing narrative of the 111th Senate was the adamantine cohesion of the Democrat caucus. Despite the fact that there were so many Democrats from states in which Obama was unpopular, they voted in goose step with Reid when it counted most. It remains to be seen if that will change during the next session. Also, Republicans will now have 6 more seats, in addition to the replacement of Bennett, Gregg, LeMieux, and Voinovich with more conservative Senators. There is simply no reason why Reid should accrue anything more than a 0% success rate during the 112th. But as that Democrat Senate aid so aptly observed, the only way to ensure such failure for Reid is for our fellow tea-party patriots to show our teeth. Let’s get to work!
Cross-posted to Red Meat Conservative