May 3, 2021


Where Are the Filibusters?Psst. Don't tell anyone but the Senate is passing bills and Biden has been signing them. (Bill Scher, May 3, 2021, Washington Monthly)

[D]uring the course of Joe Biden's first 100 days as president, the Senate passed 13 bills and filibustered zero. 10 of the 13 bills have been signed into law by President Biden, and the remaining three should soon follow suit.

Maybe the place still works.

Of course, those numbers don't paint the entire picture. The biggest of the 13 bills, by about $2 trillion, is the American Rescue Plan which passed through budget reconciliation on a party-line vote and could not be filibustered. No other major priority of Biden's has a clear path to passage because the mere existence of the filibuster power constrains the ability of the majority to act.

But Senate resistance to a president's ambitions is hardly equivalent to Senate dysfunction, which is what many were expecting and, to be fair, not without reason. Back in March, political scientists Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson explained in The Atlantic, "Why McConnell Gets Away With Filibustering," which characterized the now-Senate Minority Leader's strategy during the Obama presidency as complete and total obstruction at every point possible: "Everything that could be filibustered was -- even routine and trivial matters, even bills and appointments that the Republicans ultimately planned to support."

Whatever there is to say about Mitch McConnell's soulless approach to politics, we cannot say that today he has organized his party to filibuster everything he can. In fact, McConnell has voted "Yea" on most of the 13 successful bills, including legislation to authorize $35 billion for water infrastructure, strengthen the Justice Department's ability to prosecute hate crimes, extend a suspension of automatic Medicare cuts, extend the pandemic small business relief loan program and waive the law that would have prevented Lloyd Austin from becoming Defense Secretary. Neera Tanden's nomination tanked, but no major presidential nomination has led to thermonuclear war.

Posted by at May 3, 2021 12:00 AM