Democrats have voted for more filibusters than Republicans

If Senator Charles E. Schumer was still the minority leader, it’s a good bet that he would use the filibuster enthusiastically to stop Republican priorities, not fight to eliminate it.

The New York Democrat has had plenty of practice. Over the course of 23 years in the Senate, he has voted more than 500 times to maintain a filibuster, according to data collected by GovTrack.

But Mr Schumer, who once called the reduction of filibusters a “doomsday for democracy”, now says that the centuries-old practice has survived its use.

“We must adapt for the sake of our democracy,” he said in a speech from the Chamber last week.

He is not alone in changing his mind.

The 50 members of the Senate Democratic Caucus have voted a total of 15,579 times to maintain filibusters since 1989, according to GovTrack data. Now most people support Mr Schumer’s attempt to equate practice.

The Senate’s 50 Republicans are not far behind the Democrats and have gathered 14,389 votes to maintain filibusters. With the speed they are voting for, Republican senators will take the overall lead this year.

These figures suggest a deeper reality about the filibuster: it has become less about serious political strife and time for debate, and more about bias. Senators use it when they are in the minority and regret it when they are in the majority.

“If anything, the GovTrack data support a more obvious thesis about our policy: that senators are increasingly playing team ball. They are voting with their party,” said Kevin Kosar, a congressional expert at the American Enterprise Institute.

Michael McKenna, a senior lawmaker in the Trump White House, said: “It’s a shirt and skin game. You vote for your team.”

The public seems to understand the twofold use of filibuster better than some senators.

A TIP Insights poll conducted last week found that 51% of Democrats and 53% of Republicans said filibusters are doing well with them. The dissenting voice came from independents, with only 38% supporting the filibuster as an institution.

Filibustering does not appear in the Constitution. It is a creation of the Senate, and the name was attached in the late 1800s to a long-standing practice of giving a single senator the power to prevent business.

In the last century, the Southern Democrats used the filibuster to block civil rights legislation, fueling a more modern attempt to label it a tool for racism. Yet it is difficult to place the label with the more than 15,000 votes that the current Democrats have cast.

Former President Barack Obama, who has branded the filibuster a “Jim Crow relic”, was among those who used the tool during his time in the Senate, including to force changes to a renewal of a Patriot Act in 2005 and to block a republican property tax. and new abortion restrictions in 2006.

The Republicans, who were in the majority at the time, are now in the minority. They use the filibuster to block the Democrats’ push to write new national rules for elections and voting.

Mr. Schumer is trying to rally the 50 members of his caucus to use the “nuclear option” to change the filibuster rules, reducing the threshold for action to a simple majority of senators who vote. He has set a deadline for Monday – Martin Luther King Jr. Day – for his next step, though he has not revealed what it will be.

There is no fixed measure to measure how many filibusters have been launched over the years, in part due to various demonstrations, including a single senator holding the floor or a group of senators promising to block legislative progress.

Completion of a filibuster can happen through what is known as a cloture vote, which can be counted. Every time a senator votes against cloture, it is actually a vote to uphold a filibuster.

These were the data that GovTrack analyzed at the request of The Washington Times, using records from August 2, 1989, until the last weekend. It includes the entire careers of all but four current members: Democratic Sen. Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont and Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, and Richard C. Shelby of Alabama.

Of the 100 current senators, four have never voted to maintain a filibuster. All four are Democrats who joined a year ago, have never served under a Republican-led Senate, and have presumably not found a problem to solve.

In contrast, three Republicans who took office last year and have only served under democratic control have voted to uphold almost every filibuster when given the chance.

Mr. Shelby, who started as a Democrat and then switched to the Republican Party, is the ruling Filibuster king. He has obtained 646 “No” votes on cloture proposals, but has voted for cloture 990 times, making his filibuster rate 41% of the time.

The Democrats’ best filibuster is Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, with 584 “No” votes on cloture. Mr. Schumer ranks third among Democrats with 516 filibuster votes.

During the 31 years of GovTrack’s records, Democrats and Republicans have each served in the Senate for about 16 years.

Mr. McKenna, who also writes a column for The Times, said it explains the nearly equal number of filibuster-maintaining votes cast by each party’s senators.

In fact, when Republicans took control of the Senate just a few years ago, President Trump pushed to eliminate the filibuster.

A bipartisan coalition of senators wrote a letter in 2017 pushing back Mr Trump’s demands and begging to preserve the filibuster. More than 25 Democrats still in the Senate signed that letter. So did Kamala Harris before she became vice president.

Across the floor, the average senator cloture – officially interrupting the debate and going to final action – supports about 64% of the time.

Several centrists go far beyond that.

Late. Susan M. Collins, a Republican from Maine, has voted for cloture 85% of the time during her 25 years in the Senate. Late. Joe Manchin III, West Virginia Democrat, is close behind with 81%. Late. Kyrsten Sinema, Arizona Democrat, also ranks high with 74%, even though she has spent most of her Senate career in the minority party.

Sir. Manchin and Ms. Sinema are key figures in the current battle over the fate of the filibuster, where Mr Schumer is looking at changes that would make voting rights not subject to the super-majority rule, in the same way that budget bills are exempt.

Ms. Sinema and Mr. Manchin has expressed caution against such moves.

“I’m not for breaking the filibuster, but I’m for making the site work better by changing the rules,” he said. Manchin to reporters Tuesday.

He said he would be open to changes such as lowering the filibuster threshold to bring a bill to the floor, but not ending the super-majority requirement to come to final adoption of legislation. He signaled that he wanted Republicans to join in on these changes instead of a party-political power game that Democratic leaders are considering.

Sir. Kosar of the American Enterprise Institute said a cut in voting rights would do nothing to address the broader political dynamic in which each party’s desire to win a majority trumps the challenge of governing.

“It would rather make the Senate capitulate further to polarization,” he said.

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