June 10, 2013

The press really, really, really needs to learn how to talk about what’s happened to the Senate. Everything is being filibustered. Everything. And still newspapers get it wrong.

Michael Shear and Ashley Parker in the New York Times:

If all 54 Democratic senators vote for the [immigration] bill, which is unlikely, supporters would need six Republicans to prevent a filibuster and pass the legislation.

No! Sixty votes are needed to defeat a filibuster. The reason 60 are needed is that opponents will filibuster the immigration bill, just as they are filibustering against every bill and every nomination. Ever since January 2009, every single measure has needed 60 senators to support allowing a final vote.

No, there hasn’t always been a recorded cloture vote. No, there certainly hasn’t always been a “live” filibuster; in fact, those are rare. Nor do 60 always have to support final passage of a bill or confirmation of a nomination; there have been cases, although not very many, in which the critical swing senators supported getting to a final vote and then voted no — meaning that there were 60 in favor of taking a vote but fewer voting yes on that vote.

But 60 are always needed to get to that final vote, and that, in the modern Senate, is a filibuster.

Hey, reporters! You’ve had years to learn this. Get it right. Sixty votes are needed to defeat a filibuster. And there’s always a filibuster.