Liberal apologists have sprung into action to defend Harry Reid’s sudden turnabout on the filibuster. While the details vary, their theme is that the Democrats’ action wasn’t nakedly hypocritical; rather, the Republicans brought it on through unprecedented and unwholesome use of the filibuster. That the claim is nonsense hasn’t deterred liberal commentators like E.J. Dionne.
So: sit back and enjoy Ed Whelan’s deconstruction of Dionne’s column. These are excerpts; do read it all:
1. Dionne contends that “it is simply undeniable that in the Obama years, conservatives have abused the filibuster in ways that liberals never dream of.” He tries to support that contention by citing Congressional Research Service data on cloture motions. But, in defiance of the CRS’s own warnings, Dionne is misusing the data he cites.
a. In the report that Dionne links to, the [Congressional Research Service] emphasizes, “Cloture motions do not correspond with filibusters”:
Although cloture affords the Senate a means for overcoming a filibuster, it is erroneous to assume that cases in which cloture is sought are always the same as those in which a filibuster occurs. Filibusters may occur without cloture being sought, and cloture may be sought when no filibuster is taking place. The reason is that cloture is sought by supporters of a matter, whereas filibusters are conducted by its opponents.…
For [various] reasons [that the CRS report spells out], it would be a misuse of the following data, which identify nominations on which cloture was sought, to treat them as identifying nominations subjected to filibuster. [Pp. 2-3.]
b. As the Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler observed in a column disputing the Left’s extravagant claims, Senate majority leader Harry Reid “often files cloture on multiple bills or nominations at once to speed things along even if no one is slowing things down.” (Emphasis added.) Thus, Dionne’s observation that a very high percentage of the cloture motions ever filed on nominations have “happened under Obama” may well say far more about Reid’s trigger-happy cloture finger than anything else. That impression would seem to be bolstered by a review of Table 6 of the CRS report, which shows that the vast majority of the cloture motions that Reid has filed during the Obama administration either have been withdrawn or have won strong Republican support.
c. Dionne’s claims regarding judicial nominees are especially outrageous. A reader of Dionne’s column would have no idea that it was Senate Democrats who initiated the unprecedented campaign of judicial filibusters against President George W. Bush’s nominees in 2003.
Instead of looking at filed cloture motions, let’s look at defeated cloture motions. On this count, ten Bush 43 judicial nominees encountered a total of 20 defeated cloture motions in a period of two years. By contrast, over the nearly five years of the Obama administration, six Obama judicial nominees have suffered a total of seven defeated cloture motions. Plus, one of those six nominees, Robert Bacharach (Tenth Circuit), was defeated on cloture at the very end of July 2012 not as part of a filibuster against him but in an application of the Thurmond Rule on election-year action. (Bacharach was unanimously confirmed in February 2013.) So this data shows that ten Bush 43 nominees were filibustered, versus five Obama nominees.
In sum, what Dionne calls “simply undeniable” is simply false.
The Democrats are utterly shameless in their falsification and manipulation of data. I don’t think Dionne is very bright, but he has been a Post columnist since around the time of the Biblical Flood, so I assume he has some idea what goes on in Washington, and his misrepresentations are intentional rather than negligent.