Reid has sometimes had the advantage of an outsized majority, but he primarily operated with 58 or 59 votes. He only had 60 Members of the Democratic caucus for six months of the past two years. That was the time between Sen. Al Franken’s (D-Minn.) delayed July 2009 swearing-in and the special election win of Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) in January 2010. Regardless of whether he had 60 caucus members, Reid rarely won without the votes of at least a few Republicans. That was largely because of the illnesses and subsequent deaths of Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) in 2009 and Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) in 2010.
However, the controversial health care reform bill would not have likely passed the Senate without Reid’s 60-strong caucus, given all the key cloture votes broke down along party lines.
In the 110th Congress, Reid set the record for overall cloture motion filings with 112, but he only won 54 percent of the time with a small 51-vote majority. This Congress, he filed cloture only 91 times.
In the 112th Congress, which begins Wednesday, Reid will have only 53 Members of the Democratic caucus, making it likely his record in 2011 and 2012 will look more like the 110th Congress than the 111th.