People for the American Way released a report examining the filibuster in the Senate. They have found during the current session of Congress that cloture was invoked a record 89% of the time. Here is a historical graph showing the sharp increase in the usage this year:
But the report goes beyond that, to a place that most people don’t think about. Invoking cloture is an excellent way to slow the Senate down to a crawl. Even more interesting is the number of times cloture was invoked and passed, a true indicator that the Republicans are using this as a stall tactic:
Here is how this translates into wasted time:
Far from being a meaningless exercise, this effort to force unnecessary cloture votes has wasted an enormous amount of time. After cloture is filed it takes up to two days before Senate rules allow a vote on the petition. Then, Senate rules permit the Republicans to insist on an additional 30 hours of post-cloture debate. That means even when only a small minority of Senators actually oppose cloture, they have the ability to chew up days of the Senate’s time.
Ezra Klein points to even more evidence that the Republicans are doing this strictly to slow down the Senate:
In one case — a bill extending unemployment insurance — the final vote was 97-0.The filibuster isn’t being used to block a particular issue but to obstruct the legislative process in general.
This is a perfect example of Republicans putting party ahead of country. We are in very uncertain times. We have skyrocketing unemployment, an economy still on the brink and a health care crisis. Instead of responsibly tackling these issues with the ruling party, the Republicans are hell bent on stopping the government.
Democrats need to start playing politics too. This should be one of the key issues in the 2010 election cycle, when the focus is on Congress, not the White House. Democrats, including the one at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, need to relay the message to the American people that they are trying to work for the country – it’s the Republican obstructionist machine preventing that. We know the media won’t do their job on reporting this brutal fact, so it will become the job of the Democrats to do so.