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Obstruct/veto/fillibuster:Republicans grind Congress to halt

 
 
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Mon 24 Sep, 2007 03:54 pm
I couldn't answer nimh's poll, because the option I would have chosen wasn't offered: "Not applicable -- I don't blame anyone for gridlock in Congress. I like gridlock in Congress, so why would I blame anyone for bringing it about?"
0 Replies
 
Cycloptichorn
 
  1  
Reply Mon 24 Sep, 2007 03:56 pm
Thomas wrote:
I couldn't answer nimh's poll, because the option I would have chosen wasn't offered: "Not applicable -- I don't blame anyone for gridlock in Congress. I like gridlock in Congress, so why would I blame anyone for bringing it about?"


Now, I understand that philosophically, this isn't a bad position to take - but realistically, it is a bad position to take.

There's nothing wrong with having a body which is long on deliberation and slow on action; but there's something wrong with a body which can take NO action due to problems within it.

Cycloptichorn
0 Replies
 
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Mon 24 Sep, 2007 04:04 pm
I disagree -- just think of the mid and late nineties, when president Clinton and the Republican Congress gridlocked each other. These were good times for America.
0 Replies
 
Cycloptichorn
 
  1  
Reply Mon 24 Sep, 2007 04:11 pm
Thomas wrote:
I disagree -- just think of the mid and late nineties, when president Clinton and the Republican Congress gridlocked each other. These were good times for America.


I don't see the causality link in your logic. The good times were in many cases not entirely related to gridlock by the parties.

I can understand your argument being - we were experiencing good times, and the gridlock kept them from being ruined; but, now, we have the reverse. Not so nice.

Cycloptichorn
0 Replies
 
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Mon 24 Sep, 2007 04:17 pm
Cycloptichorn wrote:
I don't see the causality link in your logic.

Your point had been that gridlock is necessarily a bad thing. I wanted to refute it, so I gave a counterexample: An episode in American history when gridlock arguably brought about good times, and certainly didn't prevent them.
0 Replies
 
nimh
 
  1  
Reply Mon 24 Sep, 2007 04:17 pm
Thomas wrote:
I couldn't answer nimh's poll, because the option I would have chosen wasn't offered: "Not applicable -- I don't blame anyone for gridlock in Congress. I like gridlock in Congress, so why would I blame anyone for bringing it about?"

I did consider adding, "Yay for obstruction, yay for gridlock!" to the poll especially for you.. ;-)

Thomas wrote:
I disagree -- just think of the mid and late nineties, when president Clinton and the Republican Congress gridlocked each other. These were good times for America.

Will chime in with Cyclo. Correlation is no causality, or whatever that line is: the fact that "good times" (economically, I guess you mean) coincided with gridlock in Congress hardly means it was thanks to gridlock in Congress. That would be according Congress way too much importance.

Meanwhile, imagine what could have been done, during such an economic boom, if government had not been dysfunctional. America might already have had a universal health care system of sorts, for example.
0 Replies
 
Cycloptichorn
 
  1  
Reply Mon 24 Sep, 2007 04:22 pm
Thomas wrote:
Cycloptichorn wrote:
I don't see the causality link in your logic.

Your point had been that gridlock is necessarily a bad thing. I wanted to refute it, so I gave a counterexample: An episode in American history when gridlock arguably brought about good times, and certainly didn't prevent them.


Yeah, I understand that. My question is: did the gridlock actually bring about good times? Or were there good times that the gridlock prevented from being ended?

what nimh said, basically

Cycloptichorn
0 Replies
 
nimh
 
  1  
Reply Mon 24 Sep, 2007 04:38 pm
McGentrix wrote:
How is that different from the Dem's cheering on the obstructionism before and complaining about it now?

Since when do you consider what Democrats do good enough for you too?

You're still ignoring the fact that we're talking an entirely different scale this time. There's no equation. You're set for three times more threats of fillibusters this year than in any other Congress session the past fourty years.

Now yeah, you can of course deadpan, "good for them," at least they've got the cojones to wield this weapon. But would you really have complimented the Dems for having cojones if they had done the same, before - or would you rather have vilified them for it?

Yeah, rhetorical question, I know.
0 Replies
 
nimh
 
  1  
Reply Mon 24 Sep, 2007 04:49 pm
nimh wrote:
Yeah, rhetorical question, I know.

Hell, this is how you reacted when some Dems did, on one of those rare occasions, look like they would fillibuster - not just on any bill coming up on the Senate, mind, but on nothing less than a Supreme Court appointment (Alito's):

McGentrix wrote:
There is no one the dems will be happy with on the supreme court. A fillibuster would destroy what little credibility the Dems have.

McGentrix wrote:
Again, there is no candidate that Bush would nominate that the Dems will like. Bush isn't about to nominate a liberal to fill O'Conners seat and the Dem's will continue to fuss about. A fillibuster will kill any chance the Dems have in November.


Note - thats how you whined just because some Democrats were arguing for a fillibuster - in the end the Senate voted 72 to 25 to prevent one. Hell, before Alito, Roberts had also already sailed through 78 to 22 too, and nevertheless you were already whining about how the Dems were never happy and always fussing about.

So yeah, rhetorical question.

Me: I think that it's good that there is such a possibility as the fillibuster, to prevent a simple majority (50+1) from bulldozering all and any legislation. But yes, it should be a safeguard for moments of drastic overreach by the administration. On day to day affairs, the elected majority should be able to legislate.

Now I couldnt judge on an individual basis which case is worthy of using the safeguard and which one isnt. But if it's suddenly used three times as many as ever before, then something is obviously out of whack.
0 Replies
 
McGentrix
 
  1  
Reply Mon 24 Sep, 2007 05:14 pm
nimh wrote:
McGentrix wrote:
How is that different from the Dem's cheering on the obstructionism before and complaining about it now?

Since when do you consider what Democrats do good enough for you too?

You're still ignoring the fact that we're talking an entirely different scale this time. There's no equation. You're set for three times more threats of fillibusters this year than in any other Congress session the past fourty years.

Now yeah, you can of course deadpan, "good for them," at least they've got the cojones to wield this weapon. But would you really have complimented the Dems for having cojones if they had done the same, before - or would you rather have vilified them for it?

Yeah, rhetorical question, I know.


So basically you are as much a hypocrite as I then. Good to know that's settled.
0 Replies
 
nimh
 
  1  
Reply Mon 24 Sep, 2007 06:21 pm
Cycloptichorn wrote:
fishin wrote:
nimh wrote:
fishin wrote:
It would be interesting to see the number fo actual Senate votes however. A number of cloture votes by itself doesn't mean much without a reference to the total number of votes cast.

Why not?

Because if a bill isn't introduced on the floor to begin with there is no opportuinty for a motion for cloture, debate or filibuster. More votes is a base indicator of the number of bills presented (although it isn't a completely accurate indicator.)

50 motions to invoke cloture when there have been 1,000 bills introduced is a lot different than 50 motions when 60 bills have been introduced.

Naturally, you are well aware that there haven't been 1000 bills introduced this cycle; yet the motions for cloture are already at the equivalent of entire previous cycles, per WH's chart. That alone should tell ya something.

Hi Fishin',

Seems to me like Cyclo's got a point when it comes to the big picture. I am certainly no expert on the exact rules and regulations governing Congress procedures. So I'll take your word for it if you say there are imprecisions in some of the posts on the first page here, or that some of the assertions in the list Cyclo quoted, for example, are puffed up.

But the bottom line seems pretty clear. There's these two main things taking care of that:

The number of times that Bush has threatened to veto Congressional legislation is now standing at 39 within nine months - when he vetoed exactly 0 bills in almost six years before.

Now I realise that it's logical to veto more legislation authored by the opposing party than by your own. But this is extreme. I mean, the President is after all supposed to be a President for all Americans, at least to some extent. To show some independent judgement from his party in the times it has a majority; and to take some account of the people's vote when the opposition gains a majority, to come to terms with it, make some adjustments.

All Presidents are loyal to their own party, sure - but I'd be surprised if there were many (if any) modern day presidents who have acted to such an extent as a partisan rubber stamp. I mean, the man deemed every single thing the Republicans came up with for six years OK, not even wielding his veto a single time against the massive, escalating amounts of pork that were being bundled through. And now he's blocking every damn thing the Democrats come up - under the banner of fiscal responsibility! That's some brutal cheek.

The number of times cloture was invoked in the face of the threat of a fillibuster is explosively higher than in any session in several decades. It's projected, by the US Senate Historical Office, to reach 153 times -- three times more than it was in any other session for 43 years!

Now sure there will be some cross- and mixed-party voting - you mentioned examples from the list Cyclo quoted. But in the main, when a Congressional minority uses the threat of a fillibuster to prevent a vote that the majority would otherwise have won, it will have been the initiative of, well, the minority party - only makes sense. Specially in this age of party line voting.

I mean, theoretically we could go digging into the roll call (or, err, someone could), to establish how many of the times that there was a threat of a fillibuster in this session, it was indeed on the part or mostly on the part of the Republicans as minority party, and to establish how many of the times that there was such a threat in previous sessions it was on the part of the minority party then, and to then see whether the proportion you end up with is any different. But unless the Democrats have been significantly more divided in this session than the majority parties were in the previous 20 sessions (which seems unlikely), it seems to me that the result will just be to shave roughly comparable shares off the numbers. You'd still roughly end up with this proportion of 3 such moves in this Congress for every 1 such move in the previous ones, and that's pretty stunning.

The political bottom line seems simple enough. 39 threats of presidential vetoes in nine months, from a President who before had never seen a bill he didnt like. Three times as many Congressional votes to prevent the Republicans from fillibustering than had to be invoked against the minority parties of the past. The Republicans have chosen to block, veto and fillibuster legislation to an extent that has rarely been seen in the past fifty years.

Whenever Republicans sneer about the Democratic do-nothing Congress, this needs to be realised. When President and Republican minority prevent or veto votes this massively, there is one side squarely to blame for the stagnation and gridlock.
0 Replies
 
nimh
 
  1  
Reply Mon 24 Sep, 2007 06:23 pm
McGentrix wrote:
So basically you are as much a hypocrite as I then. Good to know that's settled.

Eh?

This here below is my take regardless which party is in the majority.

nimh wrote:
Me: I think that it's good that there is such a possibility as the fillibuster, to prevent a simple majority (50+1) from bulldozering all and any legislation. But yes, it should be a safeguard for moments of drastic overreach by the administration. On day to day affairs, the elected majority should be able to legislate.

Now I couldnt judge on an individual basis which case is worthy of using the safeguard and which one isnt. But if it's suddenly used three times as many as ever before, then something is obviously out of whack.
0 Replies
 
fishin
 
  1  
Reply Mon 24 Sep, 2007 06:53 pm
nimh wrote:
McGentrix wrote:
How is that different from the Dem's cheering on the obstructionism before and complaining about it now?

Since when do you consider what Democrats do good enough for you too?

You're still ignoring the fact that we're talking an entirely different scale this time. There's no equation. You're set for three times more threats of fillibusters this year than in any other Congress session the past fourty years.

Now yeah, you can of course deadpan, "good for them," at least they've got the cojones to wield this weapon. But would you really have complimented the Dems for having cojones if they had done the same, before - or would you rather have vilified them for it?

Yeah, rhetorical question, I know.


Perhaps we should be congratulating them now?

First, let's start with the graph from Walter's post:
Walter Hinteler wrote:


Note that as of July 18th cloture has been called 42 times according to their chart. The included text says "Republicans are using threats..."

First off, according to the Congressional record that number is wrong. Cloture was called for 50 times ending July 18th. But not all of them were to stop debate as they insinuate. 16 of those 50 were to BEGIN debate (i.e. motions to proceed) so that leaves 38 as the highest possible number. (since July 18th there have been 6 more calls for cloture with 2 of those being motions to proceed.

But the really interesting number is that of the 56 calls for cloture so far this session only 4 have come from Republicans. All 4 of those came from Sen. Mitch McConnell. One additional cloture motion came from Sen Bingaman (a Democrat) with the remaining 51 called by Sen. Harry Reid with all of the motions to proceed coming from Reid. (I beleive there is a Senate rule that any 16 Senators can present a "Request for Cloture" to the Majority leader and it's then up to him to call for cloture. I'm not sure if he has the ability to reject that or not... I haven't found a record yet of who may have invoked such requests. If I find them I'll break them down as well.)

Then we get to Cyclo's post:

Cycloptichorn wrote:
Quote:
  • Senate Republicans have obstructed almost every bill in the Senate - even ones with wide bipartisan support.
  • So far, in the first half of the first session of the 110th Congress, there have been THIRTEEN cloture votes on motions to proceed - each one wasting days of Senate time. (110th Congress, Roll Call Votes #44, 51, 53, 74, 129, 132, 133, 162, 173, 207, 208, 227, and 228)
  • In comparison, in the first sessions of the 108th and 109th Congresses combined, there were a total of FOUR cloture votes on motions to proceed.
EIGHT times Republican obstruction tactics slowed critical legislation

* Fulfilling the 9/11 Commission Recommendations (Passed 97-0, Roll Call Vote #53)
* Improving security at our courts (Passed 93-3, Roll Call Vote #133)
* Water Resources Development Act (Passed 89-7, Roll Call Vote #162)
* A joint resolution to revise U.S. policy in Iraq (Passed 89-9, Roll Call Vote, #74)
* Comprehensive Immigration Reform (Passed 69-23, Roll Call Vote #173)
* Comprehensive Immigration Reform (Passed 64-35, Roll Call Vote #228)
* CLEAN Energy Act (Passed 91-0, Roll Call Vote #208)
* Funding for the Intelligence Community (Passed 94-3, Roll Call Vote #129)

FOUR times Republicans blocked legislation from being debated

* Senate Republicans blocked raising the minimum wage. (54-43, Roll Call Vote #23)
* Senate Republicans blocked ethics reforms (Rejected 51-46, Roll Call Vote #16)
* Senate Republicans blocked comprehensive immigration reform (Rejected 45-50, Roll Call Vote #206)
* Senate Republicans blocked funding for renewable energy (Rejected 57-36, Roll Call Vote #223)

FOUR times Republicans stopped bills from reaching a vote

* Senate Republicans blocked funding for the intelligence community. (Rejected 41-40, Roll Call Vote #130)
* Senate Republicans blocked raising the minimum wage. (54-43, Roll Call Vote #23)
* Senate Republicans blocked ethics reforms (Rejected 51-46, Roll Call Vote #16)
* Senate Republicans blocked funding for renewable energy (Rejected 57-36, Roll Call Vote #223)

TWICE Republicans blocked bills from going to conference

* Senate Republicans blocked appointing conferees on the 9/11 Commission Recommendations (6/26/07)
* Senate Republicans blocked appointing conferees on ethics reform (6/26/07)


To put it bluntly, the Republicans have fillibustered nearly every vote which has come forth. Much, much, much more then the Dems did in the last two congresses COMBINED.

Cycloptichorn



First off all, let's give credit where credit is due. These "facts" came from the Senate's Democratic Caucus WWW page:
http://democrats.senate.gov/journal/entry.cfm?id=277868

I've already covered the inital 8 complaints and the numbers speak for themselves. The Democrats can't really complain that the Republicans's slowed critical legislation when they voted in favor of the cloture motions. (and aside from the fact the Sen. Reid is the one that opened the cloture motions to begin with.)

Then we move onto the four times Republican's "blocked legislation from being debated".

The ethics reform vote referred to (Roll Call Vote #16) would have passed with the necessary 60 votes if two Democrats hadn't voted against it and one (Boxer) hadn't abstained. I think it highly interesting that Sen. Reid - The Senate Majority Leader - was one of the two Democrats that voted against it.

The Immigration Reform vote (#206) had 7 Republicans who voted with the majority of Democrats and 3 Republicans abstained from voting. 10 Democrats however, voted against the measure. Once again this is blaming the Republicans for the Democrat's inability to rally their own side on an issue. I noted that they didn't mention roll call vote #203 on this exact same legislation on the same day that did even worse when 15 Democrats voted against it (including Reid again).

The Clean Energy Act vote (#223) was one of 4 cloture votes on that legislation (3 of which passed - vote 223 was on an amendment to the main bill). #223 didn't get it's 60 votes because 2 Democrats voted against it and 2 abstained.

So out of those 4, 1 can actually be blamed on the Republicans. That legislation was actually voted on 4 times - once blocked by Republicans (viote #23), once by Democrats (vote #22) and twice passed. Sounds like equeal blame to me...

On the 4 issues where Republican's supposedly stopped the vote:

The Intelligence funding issue (#130) was a dead split along party lines for voting. It was actually voted on twice and failed both times. (Why didn't they include vote #131???)

The miminum wage issue (#23) was already covered above - a dead heat.

On the Ethics Bill (#16) there were 2 amendments offered that got cloture. One failed (#16) and one passed (#12). The main bill was never brought up for a cloture vote.

The Renewable Energy vote (#223) is the same issue as I listed above.

So it appears that out of the 16 ""greivences" listed by the Democrats they were actually just as, if not more so, responsible for these so-called failures and contrary to Cyclo's claim that "the Republicans have fillibustered nearly every vote which has come forth" it isn't even close. There have been 347 Senate votes so far this session (as of today). Even if every cloture had been called for by the Republicans (which they haven't) it would come up to ~17% of all votes.

For a complete list of all of the cloture votes you can go Here.
0 Replies
 
fishin
 
  1  
Reply Mon 24 Sep, 2007 09:20 pm
nimh wrote:

The number of times cloture was invoked in the face of the threat of a fillibuster is explosively higher than in any session in several decades. It's projected, by the US Senate Historical Office, to reach 153 times -- three times more than it was in any other session for 43 years!


These numbers don't seem to be holding up. They appear to have done a straight line average and that hasn't held true in any year I've looked at thusfar. The overwhelming majority of cloture motions have come early in the year every year since 1971. The average is 5-6 cloture motions/year that come after 1 October. (Which makes sense if you figure that elections and holidays tend to pre-occupy these people at that time of year.)

Also, the US Senate Historical Office didn't come up with those numbers. McClatchy Newpapers came up with them. I'd have to assume they were looking at the Senate's historical data but the numbers posted on the Senate WWW site don't match up with the numbers they mention in their article. They also ignore what seems to me to be fairly significant data. For example, while there have been more Cloture motions filed this session than others there have also been more of those motions withdrawn than ever before.

But just a few tidbits for right now:

In the 2007 session so far there have been a total of 347 roll call votes with 56 cloture motions filed. Of those 56, 45 have been voted on. 16% of the 56 have been withdrawn.

Compare that to 2002 where there were only 253 roll call votes and 50 cloture motions filed. (That's 94 less R/C votes with only 6 less cloture motions) Of the 50 cloture motions filed, 39 were voted on and only 10% were withdrawn.

In both years the number of cloture motions invoked is 22.

The ratio of cloture motions to roll call votes has remained constant from 2002 to 2007. Basically, ~16% of role call votes will end up with a cloture motion. The peak for that number happened in 2002 when it hit 20%. The percentage of cloture motions actually invoked is has been lower twice since 2001 and higher 4 of those years. The cloture motion failure percentage for this year (19%) is also significantly lower than the 2003 percentage of 71%.

I'll provide more numbers later (and e-mail you the spreadsheet if you are interested.) to fill in the holes.
0 Replies
 
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Tue 25 Sep, 2007 01:01 am
Cycloptichorn wrote:
Yeah, I understand that. My question is: did the gridlock actually bring about good times?

Of course, this is partly a matter of interpretation. But I would argue that the fiscal discipline of the Clinton years, which contributed to the boom in economic growth, was an unintended byproduct of gridlock. The Republican Congress would have preferred tax cuts for the rich, which Clinton would have vetoed. Clinton would have preferred extra spending programs, which the Republicans would have preferred. With everybody's pet project blocked, the federal government reduced its deficit and even paid down some of its debt for a couple of years. Paying down debt is extremely unsexy for partisans on either side. But it is also important. It's a shame it all ended when gridlock did, and the Republicans took the White House.
0 Replies
 
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Tue 25 Sep, 2007 01:18 am
For the rest of this thread, I'll accept nimh's premise that filibusters are obstruction, and obstruction is bad. I don't believe it, but I'll accept it for the sake of the discussion. The next question is what the data in nimh's graph says tells us about it. Like fishin, I see several points where the drawers of the graph leap too far from data to interpretation.

1) A cloture vote is a vote on ending debate and starting votes. It is initiated by the party who doesn't want to debate anymore -- usually the Democrats in this term. Without explaining why, the graph equates Democratic cloture votes with Republican intentions to filibuster. This is an interpretation, and not a compelling one at that. Why does a Democratic cloture vote mean "Republicans want to filibuster"? Why doesn't it mean "Democrats want to quash much-needed debate?

2) As I said in the other thread, not all cloture motions represent filibusters. Only failed cloture motions do -- and not even all of them. A failed cloture motion means that the winning side wants to keep on debating. It doesn't mean that it wants to keep on debating forever, which is what a filibuster is.

I'm not very familiar with the procedural milestones about motions, votes, and all that in Congress. But I have a strong feeling tha there must be a better measure of obstructionism -- "percentage of bills not passed because of filibusters" would be the one where I would start.
0 Replies
 
nimh
 
  1  
Reply Tue 25 Sep, 2007 05:04 am
fishin wrote:
First, let's start with the graph from Walter's post:
Walter Hinteler wrote:


[..] But the really interesting number is that of the 56 calls for cloture so far this session only 4 have come from Republicans. All 4 of those came from Sen. Mitch McConnell. One additional cloture motion came from Sen Bingaman (a Democrat) with the remaining 51 called by Sen. Harry Reid with all of the motions to proceed coming from Reid.


Why is that "really interesting"? Isn't that pretty much self-evident?

A vote for cloture is a vote to cut off debate, right. So it is invoked to stop the other side from fillibustering. Since it is mostly the minority party that is likely to fillibuster, it seems only logical that it would be the majority party leader to propose a cloture vote to stop them from it..
0 Replies
 
nimh
 
  1  
Reply Tue 25 Sep, 2007 05:13 am
fishin wrote:
nimh wrote:
Now yeah, you can of course deadpan, "good for them," at least they've got the cojones to wield this weapon. But would you really have complimented the Dems for having cojones if they had done the same, before - or would you rather have vilified them for it?

Yeah, rhetorical question, I know.


Perhaps we should be congratulating them now?

Only if you share McGentrix's opinion that using the threat of a fillibuster early and often is a sign of having cojones. I dont, I see it as a measure for crucial circumstances only (for example radical Supreme Court appointments).
0 Replies
 
fishin
 
  1  
Reply Tue 25 Sep, 2007 05:41 am
nimh wrote:
A vote for cloture is a vote to cut off debate, right. So it is invoked to stop the other side from fillibustering. Since it is mostly the minority party that is likely to fillibuster, it seems only logical that it would be the majority party leader to propose a cloture vote to stop them from it..


No. Cloture can be to either open or close debate. A cloture motion to proceed is used to open debate. You didn't read the paragraph above the one you quoted here. Wink
0 Replies
 
parados
 
  1  
Reply Tue 25 Sep, 2007 06:55 am
According to the Senate rules - cloture is invoked to end debate by limiting the time to 30 hours.

http://www.senate.gov/reference/reference_index_subjects/Cloture_vrd.htm

The actual rule can be found here -

The question asked on a cloture vote is "Is it the sense of the Senate that the debate shall be brought to a close?"
http://rules.senate.gov/senaterules/rule22.php

cloture votes are here
http://www.senate.gov/pagelayout/reference/cloture_motions/110.htm

Nimh is correct in that the person that invokes cloture is trying to get a faster vote on the bill but I don't think it always has to be to stop a fillibuster. It could be to move business along or to just limit the amount of debate on a bill.

I believe invoking cloture also prevents any amendments from being introduced. Introducing multiple amendments can be a delaying tactic or cloture could be invoked to prevent the minority from introducing amendments designed to embarrass the majority or for political purposes, to be used against incumbents when they vote them down.

I seem to recall reading complaints by Senators about restrictions on amendments to bills caused by cloture.
0 Replies
 
 

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