WashPost Debunks Obama Claim GOP Filibustered '500 Pieces of Legislation'

Matt Vespa
By Matt Vespa | May 9, 2014 | 12:50 PM EDT

President Obama made a claim so outrageous that even the left-leaning Washington Post labeled it "ridiculous."  At a May 7 fundraising dinner in California, the president said:

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."

Huh? What?! 500 pieces of legislation; that's simply not true.  Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post aptly noted:"On just about every level, this claim is ridiculous."

Obama is assuming every cloture motion can be counted as a filibuster. Political scientist Sarah Binder of the Brookings Institution, in 2002 co-wrote a paper that concluded there was 94 percent correlation between cloture motions and documented filibusters between 1917 and 1996.

But the Congressional Research Service, using newer data, warned in a 2013 report that "it would be erroneous, however, to treat this table as a list of filibusters on nominations."

Indeed, when you go through the numbers, there have just been 133 successful filibusters-meaning a final vote could not take place-since 2007.


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.

What's more, "The same bill can be subject to as many as three cloture motions, further inflating the numbers," Kessler notes.

Yes, the U.S. Senate rules are something out of a Rube Goldberg machine, but as Kessler noted; Obama was a member of the Senate. In all, Senate Republicans have only blocked, maybe, 50 bills that Obama wished to see passed into law.

Hence, the Washington Post gives Obama "Four Pinnochios" for this claim.