Monday, September 3, 2012

Catch of the Day

How about one for Steve Benen, who heard Chris Wallace on Fox claim that Democrats had a sixty vote supermajority in the Senate during the entire 111th Congress and wasn't exactly thrilled. As Benen details, Democrats in fact the 60 vote supermajority was quite short-lived.

Benen gives the full rundown of changes during 2009 and 2010, but just to keep it simple: Democrats reached 60 when Al Franken was sworn in on July 7. They fell below that when Ted Kennedy died on August 25. They reached 60 again when Paul Kirk replaced Kennedy on September 24, and then fell short for good when Scott Brown was sworn in on February 4.

However, as Benen further points out, for at least most of the first (July-August) stretch, Kennedy was unable to vote; Robert Byrd was also in failing health that year, and was not always available either both in the summer and then during the longer stretch in the fall. It's probably also worth mentioning for whatever it's worth that Scott Brown was actually elected on January 19, and Republicans immediately contended that it would be entirely illegitimate for the Senate to do anything before he was seated, so the dates when Republicans considered a 60 vote supermajority to be there should probably be through only January 19.

So depending on how you count things, it's six months, or five months, or four certainly isn't two years.

(I should point out Benen did get one thing wrong, although it doesn't affect his main point at all; after Byrd died and temporarily dropped the Democrats down to 58 Senators, they got back to 59 when Byrd's replacement Carte Goodwin was sworn in a couple of weeks later).

Of course, that also misses the point that up until January 2009, the majority party didn't need 60 votes for quite a bit of it's normal business (until January 1993, filibusters were relatively rare altogether). And that 60 Democrats in the Senate certainly doesn't mean that Barack Obama could do whatever he wanted. But just on the basic facts: no, it wasn't two years of 60 votes.

Nice catch!


  1. Is it fair to consider Kennedy, Byrd, and their respective state party power bases irresponsible for choosing to hang on so long to their positions to the point of easily foreseeable incapacitation and not sheparding clear favorite heirs (or however that would work)?

    1. Sure, it is fair to consider them irresponsible. But I don't see how that irresponsibility affects the number of votes available for the D's during the period. So it is an irrelevent irresponsibility, at least for the question at hand.


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