Number of Filibusters

I wrote about this awhile back and thought I would put in the final numbers for the record number of filibusters in the 110th congress (from here). Here it is in graphic form (it starts with the 66th congress, 1919-1920, since the cloture rule was added in 1917 and its first use was in 1919)

Note: graph edited 2/20/13 to include data through the end of the 112th Congress (click on the graph to see a larger version)

Filibusters

This is not exact for a few reasons:

this is looking at cloture votes not filibusters–not every filibuster will have a cloture vote;

cloture is used to end debate and can be used for things other than a filibuster;

the rules have changed over time: the number of votes needed for cloture originally was 67, but was changed to 60 (with some exceptions) in 1975; the rules for the filibuster have been relaxed (if one side insists on the full Mr Smith goes to Washington version then no other business can happen).

This means that comparisons over time are difficult, the change from the number of cloture votes from the 1950s to now is at least partially due to the increased willingness for a cloture call (it used to be that a cloture vote wasn’t called for a while after the start of the filibuster, now it’s more likely that it will be called quickly). Still this about the best we can do–it’s pretty much impossible to count filibusters themselves–and should be ok when comparing the 110th Congress to others in the last 30 years or so. If you do that, you’ll see that the increased use of cloture began in 1971-2 and that the 110th Congress easily set a record for the number of cloture filings.

2/12/2010 update: To get an idea of the problems involved in figuring out how many filibusters there are, look at the cloture motions for Presidential nominations since 1987 (the search only goes back that far–a paper here says cloture was sought in 35 nominations from 1949-2002, with cloture votes not allowed on nominees before 1949, and all but 3 of these were eventually confirmed; putting these together we get 124 cloture votes on nominees–this is not exact since there is at least one name that is not in both lists):

there have been 76 nominations since 1987 where there was a motion for cloture;

in all but 18 cases the nominee was confirmed in that session;

of those, 6 were later confirmed (this is 7 in a way since one person was nominated to two positions); 4 were given recess appointments; 6 did not get the position; Craig Becker lost a cloture vote on 2/9/10.

Put together there would be a total of 124 nominees who had a cloture vote with 14 not eventually confirmed (of which 4 got recess appointments and Becker is not done yet).

This sounds trivial given the number of nominations (there have been 1487 during this session of Congress alone), but misses something. First most of the nominations are for the military (for promotions for example). Second many of the blocks are not done by filibusters but instead by blue slips or holds which are almost impossible to count since they’re fairly informal, but certainly greatly outnumber the number of filibusters.

I’ll put the numbers below the fold if you’re interested.

Years            # Filed # Votes # Invoked
2013-2104     138           120        98   (through 5/8/2014)
2011-2012      115           73         41
2009-2010    137            91        63
2007-2008   139         112         61       (110th session)
2005-2006   68            54           34
2003-2004   62            49           12
2001-2002   71            61           34
1999-2000   71            58           28
1997-1998   69            53           18
1995-1996   82            50            9
1993-1994   80            46           14
1991-1992   60            48           23
1989-1990   38            24           11
1987-1988   54            43           12          (100th session)
1985-1986   41            23           10
1983-1984   41            19           11
1981-1982   31            30           10
1979-1980   30            20           11
1977-1978   23            13           3
1975-1976   39            27           17  (# needed for cloture decreases to 60)
1973-1974   44            31           9
1971-1972   23            20           4
1969-1970   7             6              0
1967-1968   6             6              1
1965-1966   7             7              1
1963-1964   4             3              1
1961-1962   4             4              1
1959-1960   1             1              0
1957-1958   0             0              0
1955-1956   0             0              0
1953-1954   1             1              0
1951-1952   0             0              0
1949-1950   2             2              0
1947-1948   0             0              0
1945-1946   6             4              0
1943-1944   1             1              0
1941-1942   1             1              0
1939-1940   0             0              0
1937-1938   2             2              0
1935-1936   0             0              0
1933-1934   0             0              0
1931-1932   2             1              0
1929-1930   1             0              0
1927-1928   1             0              0
1925-1926   7             7              3
1923-1924   0             0              0
1921-1922   1             1              0
1919-1920   2             2              1      (the 66th session)

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10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: uberVU - social comments
  2. Duncan O'Neil
    Oct 08, 2010 @ 11:43:41

    Using this cloture data reveals that the parties are nearly equal on the use of filibusters. Presuming all of them are a result of the same.

    Then there is the thought that the minority party thought the issue in question was really not a good idea!

    Reply

    • fredtopeka
      Oct 14, 2010 @ 13:18:14

      I assume this is a spam comment, but I can’t leave it. If you look at the last two sessions, there has been a large jump in the number of cloture votes, so no there is not a ‘nearly equal’ use.

      Reply

  3. Brian
    Oct 18, 2010 @ 16:01:58

    Since the obvious increase in the number of filibusters is soon to follow mid-term election victories for the Republicans, are we going to see a new era of obstructionism by the minority party? I mean, aren’t the Republicans about to be rewarded for playing politics instead of doing their jobs and doesn’t that set the tone for the next group looking to regain their lost majority? It is a scary precedent and I believe it will continue to grind legislation to a halt in the future.

    Reply

    • fredtopeka
      Oct 18, 2010 @ 20:00:36

      It is possible, but there are two reasons I don’t think it will happen:

      1. Democrats are expected to hold the Senate, so they can just vote down things they don’t like. And, since bills are supposed to originate in the House, not many bills sponsored by Democrats will make it to the Senate (assuming Republicans take control of the House).

      2. Obama will still be President which means he can Veto many of the bills.

      This doesn’t mean that there isn’t a long term problem, there is. Something has to change–either the way the parties interact or the rules of the Senate.

      Reply

  4. Trackback: Republicans: there need to be votes for things we support « Petunias
  5. Anonymous
    Jul 31, 2011 @ 21:34:07

    It is obvious that the current Republicans are intent on being dictators.
    If they don’t get their way, they will prevent government from working.

    Reply

  6. Trackback: Block, block, and then block « Petunias
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  8. Trackback: Filibusters | Petunias

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