Filibustering Non-Amendable Measures

We’ve heard quite a bit now that blaming Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans for the astronomical rise in filibusters is unfair because such tactics were made necessary by Harry Reid’s “tyrannical” tactics restricting the right to offer amendments to bills. Poor Mitch: he didn’t want to radically change the United States Senate into a legislative body with a supermajority requirement for all measures; he was forced to destroy the Senate’s ability to function.

In response to this claim, Jonathan Bernstein made a very pertinent point at WaPo:

If only there were some way to test that theory…

Wait, there is!

After all, there are no amendments on confirmation votes. So if a lack of amendments was the main reason for the increase in cloture, then these votes should have been unaffected.

Yet, of course, filibusters of confirmation votes spiked up in 2009 — particularly on executive-branch nominations but on judicial nominations, too.

Basically, before Barack Obama was elected, filibusters against executive-branch nominees were rare; now, they extend to pretty much every nominee.

Reid’s tactics may or may not represent a restriction of minority rights in the Senate. But it’s clear they are more of an excuse than a justification for the GOP effort to expand the filibuster into an actual or potential weapon to thwart the majority on every Senate vote.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.