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13 things that would have passed the last Senate if there were no filibuster

The filibuster in recent years has allowed the Republican minority to block major Democratic proposals by requiring 60 votes to end debate. Here are 13 bills or nominations that received more than 50 votes — a majority — but failed to overcome the 60-vote filibuster.


  1. The filibuster in recent years has allowed the Senate minority to block routine legislation by requiring 60 votes to end debate. Here are 13 significant bills or nominations that received more than 50 votes — a majority — but failed to overcome the 60-vote filibuster. 
  2. That does not mean these bills would have all become law. They would still have had to pass the House and be signed by the president. However, passing the upper chamber would have put more pressure on the House to act in some cases.  
  3. Also, when regular votes in the Senate are 50-50, the vice president votes to break the tie.
  4. Prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gases

  5. After climate change legislation stalled in Congress, the Environmental Protection Agency declared it would use existing air pollution regulations to address greenhouse gas emissions. This bill would have prevented the EPA from doing so. If it were subjected to a majority vote and tied at 50-50, however, Vice President Joe Biden would have been allowed to vote and he presumably would have voted against it.

    Failed: 50-50, April 6, 2011, Senate Roll Call No. 54, 112nd Congress, 1st Session
  6. Confirm Goodwin Liu as a U.S. Circuit Court Judge

  7. Goodwin Liu, a law professor at the University of California at Berkeley and former law clerk for Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, was nominated for an appeals court by President Obama. But Republicans objected to his harsh criticism of justices Samuel Alito and John Roberts during their confirmations.

    Failed: 52-43, 1 Present, 4 Not Voting, May 19, 2011, Senate Roll Call No. 74, 112nd Congress, 1st Session
  8. End tax breaks for oil companies

  9. This bill would have ended certain tax breaks for large oil companies.

    Failed: 52-48, May 17, 2011, Senate Roll Call No. 72, 112nd Congress, 1st Session
  10. President Obama’s 2011 jobs proposal

  11. In an effort to boost the economy in 2011, President Obama proposed a package of measures that would spend money on infrastructure and help state and local governments hire more teachers and police officers, among other things. The package failed, as did several of its components when brought up separately.

    Failed: 50-49, 1 Not Voting, Oct. 11, 2011, Senate Roll Call No. 160, 112nd Congress, 1st Session
  12. Hire more teachers and police officers

  13. President Obama proposed giving $30 billion in grants to state and local governments for hiring (or keeping) school teachers and $5 billion for more police officers and emergency personnel as part of a broad jobs package.

    Failed: 50-50, Oct. 20, 2011, Senate Roll Call No. 177, 112nd Congress, 1st Session
  14. Spend $60 billion improving transportation infrastructure

  15. President Obama proposed spending $60 billion improving transportation infrastructure such as highways. The bill, which was part of a broad jobs package, also would have created a national infrastructure bank.

    Failed: 51-49, Nov. 3, 2011, Senate Roll Call No. 195, 112nd Congress, 1st Session
  16. Approve Richard Cordray as head of the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection

  17. When President Obama couldn’t get Elizabeth Warren through the Senate to head the newly created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, he nominated former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray instead. After Republicans filibustered Cordray, Obama named him through a recess appointment that doesn’t last as long as a Senate-approved appointment.

    Failed: 53-45, Dec. 8, 2011, Senate Roll Call No. 223, 112nd Congress, 1st Session
  18. Overhaul of the U.S. Postal Service