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Harry Reid Beat Back Majority of Filibusters in 2011

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid managed to win more than half of the filibuster-breaking votes on the Senate floor in 2011, besting his success rate from the previous year.

Of the 32 cloture votes pushed by the Nevada Democrat this year, Reid won 19, or 59 percent. He lost 13 cloture votes.

That comes after hitting a success rate of 54 percent in 2010, when he won 28 cloture votes and lost 24. Sixty votes are needed to cut off debate and kill a filibuster, or invoke cloture.

Reidís majority shrunk from 59 Senators in 2010 to 53 in 2011, increasing the number of Republicans needed to vote with the majority of Democrats in order to reach the 60-vote threshold.

Despite their diminished numbers this year, Democrats won a handful of legislative victories this year by defeating attempted filibusters, including on the fiscal 2012 defense authorization bill. Invoking cloture led to the billís passage in December, no small feat in a divided Congress.

Other cloture votes of significance include a September vote on Trade Adjustment Assistance, a priority for Democrats and the White House. As part of a deal to pass three trade agreements, Reid won cloture on the motion to proceed to legislation extending the Generalized System of Preferences, which was the vehicle for TAA.

TAA offers a variety of benefits and re-employment services to U.S. workers harmed or displaced by foreign trade. The deal struck between the White House and Congressional leaders was to move the three trade deals in tandem with TAA and the Republican-favored GSP bill, which provides duty-free access to the U.S. market for certain products from developing countries.

The Senate also rejected a filibuster on legislation to repeal a law that would require federal, state and local governments to withhold 3 percent of nearly all of their contract payments beginning in 2013. The bill, which became law last month, was one of the few bipartisan moments of the year. The measure was part of a bipartisan deal to pass the bill and tax incentives for hiring veterans.

That victory was preceded by a failed Republican attempt to invoke cloture on a similar bill that was offset with spending cuts Democrats opposed. And Democrats only won the vote after the House passed a bill that repealed the withholding provision and a deal to add the veterans provision was worked out between the chambers.

Although there were some legislative results in 2011, there were also some notable failures in which filibusters kept the Senate from acting, particularly on nominations.

The White House and Democrats were dealt blows on four nominations that failed to win cloture votes: Mari Carmen Aponte to be ambassador to El Salvador, Richard Cordray to be director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Caitlin Halligan to join the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and Goodwin Liu to join the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

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