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Congressional Filibuster Record by Party 1992 - 2011

A filibuster by the majority senate can only be broken with 60 votes or a three-fifths majority. In 2010, Republican Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell stated, "The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president. (1)"


Republicans have executed 40% more filibusters since 1992, or nearly double the Democrat rate, in an effort to make the Obama administration and Democrats in Congress take the blame for not getting things done. While Tea Partiers claim to uphold the values of our Founding Fathers, it should be noted that the filibuster is not in the Constitution (2). The filibuster has been used with greater frequency since the 1970s, and practiced the most by Republicans over the past decade. In fact Tea Party favorite Rand Paul has voted for a Filibuster 79% of his 62 senatorial votes cast (3). Today the Republican actions make passing laws in the Senate into a 60 vote requirement (4), which has never been a constant in American governance until the past decade. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid states, “60 votes are required for just about everything” (4). The political fallout from over-use of the filibuster has been drastic. In 2007 - 2008, the single largest filibuster year on record with 139 Republican cloture motions filed, a Gallup Poll for Congress Approval Rating was only 23% - the lowest in over 20 years (5 ). Today's 112th Congress has an abysmal 9% approval rating - the lowest on record (6).


When America is engaged in a costly War in Afghanistan, over 9% unemployment, and an unsustainable budget deficit, it is immoral for the minority Republican party to block passage of most of the majority legislation while deceptively convincing the public that the Democratic party is incapable of solving America's problems. Statistically, between 1920 to 1970, filibusters averaged one a year, but between 2005 - 2008, there have averaged 70 filibusters per year (7).


Because of the 231 Republican filibusters since President Obama took office, roughly one of every eight federal judgeships remain vacant, and as of September 2010, more than 190 presidential nominees were awaiting confirmation (7). This obstructionism has caused a lack of oversight, efficiency, and intellectual resources required for a functioning government to manage America's complex institutions. A common falsehood made by Republicans is to call out that even with 60 Democrat votes in 2009, and a Democrat President, the Democrats could not pass their legislation. But the data shows that in 2009, Democrats only enjoyed a 60 seat majority for only a brief 72 days due to Ted Kennedy's hospitalization for a brain tumor which led to his death, while at the same time Republicans filed 137 filibuster motions, the second largest number in U.S. history.


The founding fathers realized the functional dangers of requiring a supermajority to approve any action under the Articles of Confederation, and sought to limit a supermajority power to allow Congress to act. Only in recent times has partanship politics shackled the ability of Congress to take action and brought one of our most important institutions into gridlocked dysfunction. The blame for this dysfunction is not equal. Of the top 50 Senators to cast Filibuster votes 30% or more of their total votes taken, 47 are Republicans and only 3 are Democrats (3).


At this political impasse the Tea Party Republicans should reflect on the wisdom of Founding Father, James Madison, "[Requiring a supermajority] would mean the fundamental principle of free government would be reversed. It would be no longer the majority that would rule; the power would be transferred to the minority." (7) - James Madison, Federalist Papers No. 58


Maybe the transfer of power to the minority is the Republican Congressional strategy, at the cost democracy.









(6) The Future of Limitless Debate:The Filibuster in the 113thCongressMark Kogan. American University Washington College of Law



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Taken on September 13, 2012