Decades’ worth of obstructionism

DECADES’ WORTH OF OBSTRUCTIONISM…. In talking to Senate Democrats yesterday, President Obama reminded the caucus that its successes have come against “enormous” and “unprecedented” obstructionism: “You may have looked at these statistics. You had to cast more votes to break filibusters last year than in the entire 1950s and ’60s combined. That’s 20 years of obstruction packed into just one.”

That may seem like a bit of an exaggeration, so CNN fact-checked the claim. Wouldn’t you know it, the president was correct.

* A vote to end filibuster debate is called a cloture vote. From the 81st Congress (1949-1950) through the 91st Congress (1969-1970), there were a total of 30 votes on cloture. There were no more than seven cloture votes in any single session during those years.

* Starting with the 92nd Congress (1971-72), cloture votes became more frequent. Part of that can be explained by the fact that the Senate changed the required majority in 1975, making it easier to induce cloture.

* The 110th Congress (2007-2008) is the record-holder so far: There were 112 votes on cloture during that two-year period.

* So far, the 11th Congress (2009-2010) has held 41 cloture votes, 39 of them last year, two more this year.

It’s not especially close. From 1949 to 1970, there were 30 cloture votes. In 2009, there were 39.

This reminds me to post this chart, recently put together by TPM, which puts Republican abuse in a helpful, visual context. It doesn’t even include the current Congress, which is poised to break its own record from the Congress than ended in 2008.

cloture-stats-chart2.jpg

There are still some in the political world, including far too many media professionals, who think mandatory 60-vote majorities for literally everything is just routine, as if the Senate has always been this way. It hasn’t — the Senate has never been asked to function this way; it wasn’t designed to function this way; and it quite obviously can’t function this way.

The chamber is broken, and Republicans are standing over the shattered pieces holding a hammer.