Given that 2009 and 2010 really weren’t that long ago, one would like to think Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) would remember them. It was, after all, just one Congress ago.
And yet, McConnell has begun arguing that White House officials have been “trying to pretend like the president just showed up yesterday, just got sworn in and started fresh. In fact, he’s been in office three years. He got everything he wanted from a completely compliant congress for two of those three years.”
This is a popular claim in Republican circles. It’s also demonstrably false. As Sahil Kapur explained, “It was McConnell, after all, who led Senate Republicans in serial filibusters – a record-setting number – successfully thwarting large chunks of Obama’s agenda.”
Perhaps a visual will jog the Minority Leader’s memory. Here’s a chart Brian Beutler put together a while back showing the explosion in the number of filibusters.
The Senate keeps an updated table, charting cloture votes by Congress over the last nine decades, using three metrics: (1) cloture motions filed (when the majority begins to end a filibuster); (2) votes on cloture (when the majority tries to end a filibuster); and (3) the number of times cloture was invoked (when the majority succeeds in ending a filibuster). By all three measures, obstructionism soared in 2009 and 2010 as Republican abused the rules like no other party in American history.
Consider this tidbit: cloture was invoked 63 times in 2009 and 2010, which isn’t just the most ever, it’s more than the sum total of instances from 1919 through 1982. That’s not a typo.
The result was obvious: several key measures sought by the White House were defeated, despite the large Democratic majority, while many other proposals were watered down to generate super-majority support.
McConnell has to be aware of this – it served as the foundation for his larger political strategy.
* In March 2010, McConnell explained his decision to try to kill health care reform from the outset, regardless of merit or Democratic compromises, by demanding unanimous Republican opposition: “It was absolutely critical that everybody be together because if the proponents of the bill were able to say it was bipartisan, it tended to convey to the public that this is O.K., they must have figured it out.” It’s a dynamic that made compromise, quite literally, impossible.
* Soon after, McConnell explained the importance he and the House GOP leadership put on “unify[ing] our members in opposition” to everything Democrats propose, because unanimous Republican disagreement would necessarily make Democratic ideas less popular. “Public opinion can change, but it is affected by what elected officials do,” McConnell conceded. “Our reaction to what [Democrats] were doing had a lot to do with how the public felt about it. Republican unity in the House and Senate has been the major contributing factor to shifting American public opinion.”
* In August 2010, McConnell said he’ll only consider negotiating with the White House if they agree to accept center-right proposals, with no exceptions, even if there’s a Democratic majority.
* In October 2010, McConnell conceded on the record that defeating the president in 2012 is his “top priority,” above literally everything else.
The Senate Minority Leader carefully crafted the most obstructionist agenda in modern American history, and he exploited it to great effect. For McConnell to pretend otherwise is simply dishonest.