President Barack Obama earned “four Pinocchios” from the Washington Post Fact Checker, the highest ranking for a political lie, for asserting that Republicans filibustered 500 pieces of legislation, an exaggeration of nearly five times the reality.
President Barack Obama speaks at the USC Shoah Foundation’s 20th anniversary Ambassadors for Humanity gala in Los Angeles, Wednesday, May 7, 2014. Obama received an award from the foundation created by movie director Steven Spielberg and plans to spend three days in California where he will raise money for the Democratic Party. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Obama spoke at a fundraising event for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in Los Angeles Wednesday, and made the charge against Republican lawmakers.
“Here’s what’s more disconcerting; their willingness to say no to everything — the fact that since 2007, they have filibustered about 500 pieces of legislation that would help the middle class just gives you a sense of how opposed they are to any progress — has actually led to an increase in cynicism and discouragement among the people who were counting on us to fight for them,” Obama said.
The Post unsparingly said of the president's assertion, “On just about every level, this claim is ridiculous.”
“We realize that Senate rules are complex and difficult to understand, but the president did serve in the Senate and should be familiar with its terms and procedures. Looking at the numbers, he might have been able to make a case that Republicans have blocked about 50 bills that he had wanted passed, such as an increase in the minimum wage,” the Post said. “But instead he inflated the numbers to such an extent that he even included votes in which he, as senator, supported a filibuster.”
The Post said that in reality, “there have just been 133 successful filibusters—meaning a final vote could not take place–since 2007.”
Obama was bending the definition of filibuster, which means extending debate to delay a vote on a bill. However, the Post said he was likely referring to 527 cloture motions that were filed in the Senate since 2007 to close debate and go straight to a vote.
To automatically correlate a cloture motion and filibuster is inaccurate, the Post said, citing studies from both the non-partisan Congressional Research Service and the left-leaning think tank Brookings Institution.
The 2013 CRS report said, “it would be erroneous, however, to treat this table as a list of filibusters on nominations.”
The 2002 Brookings report asserted 94 percent correlation rate between cloture motions and filibusters from 1917 1996. “But, even if you accept the way Senate Democrats like the frame the issue, the president is still wrong,” the Post said.
“He referred to 'legislation'—and most of these cloture motions concerned judicial and executive branch nominations. In the 113th Congress, for instance, 83 of the 136 cloture motions so far have concerned nominations, not legislation.”
The Post noted that Obama referenced two years before he was president, when he was voting himself to block votes on legislation.
“Obama’s count also includes at least a half-dozen instances when Republicans were blocked by Democrats through use of the filibuster. In fact, in the biggest oddity, the president reached back to 2007 in making his claim, so he includes two years when he was still a senator,” the Post said. “On eight occasions, he voted against ending debate—the very thing he decried in his remarks.”