It Depends On How You Define 'filibuster'

Counting cloture motions isn't just a geeky pastime for us Senate watchers in The Crypt.

These procedural maneuvers, designed to break a filibuster with 60 votes. are a key indicator of productivity and comity in the Senate. Since Democrats took control last year, there have been a record 72 cloture votes, a statistic that Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), decried today as "72 Republican filibusters."

But have there really been 72 filibusters?

Republicans think not, pointing to the fact that some of these votes have either been on motions that Democrats supported, or against President Bush's judicial nominations. If it's the Democrats opposing a procedural motion, is it a Republican filibuster? As a side note - nobody ever carries out a full-blown filibuster any more, at least not like the one captured in "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington."

"Half the votes described as filibusters were actually successful votes where cloture was invoked and the bill was actually moved forward," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell R-Ky). "So if we're going to talk about this kind of thing, we at least need to get our facts right. Everybody's entitled to their own opinion, but they're not entitled to their own set of facts."

Here's a Senate to English translation of McConnell's sentiment: Reid often calls for votes before Republicans are ready to vote so Republicans are forced to quickly object sometimes even if they agree with the issue at hand. This doesn't necessarily mean Republicans are "filibustering" a bill.

Reid spokesman Jim Manley said regardless of how Republicans try to deconstruct the record-setting number of cloture motions, the stats don't lie.

"After more than a year of record-shattering slowing, stopping and stalling, Republicans have found another way to waste valuable Senate time: semantics," Manley said.