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17 Filibuster Casualties: Can We Afford More?

What do the DREAM Act, the public option, and the Employer Free Choice Act have in common? They’d all be the law of the land today, if it weren’t for the filibuster.

The Washington Post has a new feature up, profiling 17 bills from just the past four years that had majority support, but not enough votes to reach the Senate’s arbitrary 60-vote threshold.

Arguments over the filibuster tend to devolve into relatively esoteric debates about minority rights and majority rule. But let’s ground this conversation in real-world consequences: In the absence of the filibuster, what laws would have passed the Senate that didn’t?

In order to limit the size of the search, we begin the clock with the 111th Congress, which began in January 2009. We’re looking for bills that got more than 50 votes in the Senate but that didn’t make it to the president’s desk. In most cases, bills that failed due to a filibuster in the 111th Congress had already passed the House, so they would be law today. In the 112th Congress, the Republican House was less aligned with the Democratic Senate, and so passage in the Senate does not mean the bills would gave been passed into law.

A disclaimer: If there was no filibuster, the two parties’ strategies would be different. The bills they pushed would almost certainly be different. No examination of roll-call votes will reveal the bills that would’ve been passed in a world without the filibuster, but which the majority party didn’t bother pursuing because they recognized they would be filibustered.

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