Four Pinocchios to Obama for "500 Republican filibusters" claim

Perhaps Glenn Kessler should keep a log book of total Pinocchios given to the Obama administration. Giving them out four at a time doesn’t appear to be producing any improvement. Take last night’s speech at a fundraiser for the DCCC in their effort to return the speaker’s gavel to Nancy Pelosi. For some reason, Barack Obama focused on the Senate, and made this patently absurd claim:

“Here’s what’s more disconcerting.  Their [Republicans] willingness to say no to everything — the fact that since 2007, they have filibustered about 500 pieces of legislation that would help the middle class just gives you a sense of how opposed they are to any progress — has actually led to an increase in cynicism and discouragement among the people who were counting on us to fight for them.”

Since 2007 — when George W. Bush was President? We’ll get back to that in a moment. Democrats complain about Republican filibusters and often include regular cloture motions as part of their count, but what they don’t explain is that cloture ends up being required because of the manner in which bills come to the floor. Harry Reid wants to limit the ability to offer amendments, and even then fills up the “amendment tree” to lock Republicans out of the process. At least some of the cloture calls are required because of this strategy.

But even if one counted all of those as filibusters, Obama’s claim still wouldn’t make any sense. Kessler counts up the actual filibusters — not just on legislation but all such actions — and gets 133 of them, not 500. Where did Obama get “over 500”?

Since 2007, there have been 527 cloture motions that have been filed, according to Senate statistics. This is apparently where Obama got his figure. But this tells only part of the story as many of those cloture motions were simply dropped, never actually voted on, or “vitiated” in the senatorial nomenclature. …

But, even if you accept the way Senate Democrats like the frame the issue, the president is still wrong. He referred to “legislation”—and most of these cloture motions concerned judicial and executive branch nominations. In the 113th Congress, for instance, 83 of the 136 cloture motions so far have concerned nominations, not legislation.

That’s why Harry Reid’s rule change focused on those nominations, and not legislation.

Even then, while Obama referred to “500 pieces of legislation,” the same bill can be subject to as many as three cloture motions, further inflating the numbers. For instance, there may be cloture to get on the bill, cloture on the substitute bill (if lawmakers are simply using an unrelated bill as a vehicle for passage), and cloture on the underlying bill. All of these votes might take place on the same day, but it creates the illusion of the same bill being “filibustered” three times. It certainly does not mean there were three pieces of legislation. So far in the 113th Congress, 36 pieces of legislation were subject to a cloture motion—and 12 were actually filibustered. That’s a far cry from the 136 that Obama is counting in order to tally up 500.

But there’s one more glaring problem with Obama’s tally — and a glaring hypocrisy. Don’t forget that Obama served in the Senate for a half-term before becoming President. And guess who voted in support of a filibuster eight times in thirteen months?

Kessler concludes:

On just about every level, this claim is ridiculous.

That’s true of many of Obama’s claims. I’d bet the number of Pinocchios earned by this President far outstrips the count of actual filibusters on Obama’s legislation, which Kessler puts at around 50. Maybe Kessler can do a fact-check on that claim.

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