Sen. Harry Reid set a record during the 111th Congress by becoming the chamber’s most successful Majority Leader in history at killing attempted filibusters.
Though the Nevada Democrat’s batting average took a nose dive in 2010, 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.
Two former Majority Leaders — Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and Mike Mansfield (D-Mont.) — share the next best record; both won 63 percent of the time in the 109th Congress and the 94th Congress, respectively.
“While it is good news for the American people that Sen. Reid and the Democratic caucus have been able to overcome a record number of filibusters, it is at the same time unfortunate that our Republican colleagues have decided that the appropriate way to govern is to essentially try not to do anything,” Reid spokeswoman Regan Lachapelle said. “Sen. Reid will continue to work to ensure that we create jobs and turn our economy around. It is our hope that Senators on the other side of the aisle will end their record of obstruction and put the business of the American people before politics.”
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. Sixty votes are needed to invoke cloture and kill a filibuster.
One senior Senate Democratic aide said the disparity between 2009 and 2010 can largely be attributed to both parties’ maneuvering during a tough election year. Reid couldn’t get enough votes to reach cloture without somebody crossing the aisle. And while it behooved Republicans to stick together last year, Democrats also used some cloture votes as a way to create a clear contrast between the parties.
“As we got closer to the midterm elections, it made more sense to set up those contrasting votes,” the aide said. “As the tea party showed its teeth more, you had fewer instances where [moderate Republican Senators] were willing to cross the aisle.”
One senior Senate GOP aide said Reid might have encountered fewer filibuster attempts if he had sought out minority input in legislation more often. Of course, Democrats have argued Republicans were the ones eschewing bipartisanship. Either way, cloture votes have become much more common in recent years as the minority has used them not just as an attempt to block bills but also as a way to slow down the majority’s agenda. Rarely do modern-day filibusters result in one or more Senators holding the floor and trying to talk a bill to death. Instead, the minority often threatens filibusters as a way to limit the majority’s ability to easily bring bills to the floor for debate. Just one Senator can block a motion to proceed to a bill, and as more Senators are willing to do that, the call for filibuster-killing cloture votes has risen, too.
Lois Lerner, director of exempt organizations for the IRS, arrives for a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on the investigation of the IRS' targeting of political groups. Lerner invoked her Fifth Amendment right to not testify and caused a protest from some committee members when she offered an opening statement and engaged in dialogue with members before invoking the right.
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