Accuracy in Media

fact checker four pinocchios

The Washington Post Fact Checker gave President Obama another four Pinocchios—this time for a statement he made last week at a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee fundraiser in California:

Here’s what’s more disconcerting. Their [Republicans’] 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.

– President Obama, May 7, 2014

That’s a great sound bite, but according to the Fact Checker’s Glenn Kessler, it is blatantly inaccurate.

Using Senate statistics, Kessler says 527 cloture motions have been filed, but many were “vitiated,” meaning that they were dropped and never voted on.

Kessler points out that Obama thinks that cloture motions can be counted as filibusters, but he  points out that the Congressional Research Service said in a 2013 report that “it would be erroneous, however, to treat this table as a list of filibusters on nominations.”

The real number of successful filibusters since 2007 is 133, a far cry from the 527 Obama claimed.

Kessler sad Obama was also wrong in referring to legislation, as 83 of the 136 cloture motions in the 113th Congress so far have concerned nominations, not legislation.

Another problem with Obama’s numbers is that he included several instances when Democrats blocked Republicans through use of the filibuster, adding that the President for some strange reason, decided to include in his count two years when he was still a senator and voted eight times against ending debate—the very thing he was complaining about.

Here are those eight votes:

2/12/08 – Roll Call Vote #19, S. 2248 (FISA Amendments Act of 2007)

1/28/08 – Roll Call Vote # 3, S.Amdt. 3911 to S. 2248

11/16/07 – Roll Call Vote # 410, S. 2340

10/24/07 – Roll Call Vote #392, Nomination of Leslie Southwick To 5th Circuit Court

5/16/07 – Roll Call Vote #168, S.Admt. 1134 to H.R. 1495

3/9/07 – Roll Call Vote # 68, S.Amdt. 312 to S.Amdt. 275 to S. 4

2/1/07 – Roll Call Vote #43, Motion to Proceed To S.Con.Res. 2

1/24/07 – Roll Call Vote #22, S.Amdt. 101 to S.Amdt. 100 to H.R. 2

That led Kessler to his inevitable conclusion:

The Pinocchio Test

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. But instead, he inflated the numbers to such an extent that he even included votes in which he, as senator, supported a filibuster.

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