- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 28, 2009

Rep. Alan Grayson, Florida Democrat, is trying to make it easier to prevent Senate filibusters, arguing that President George W. Bush got better treatment than President Obama is getting.

The only problem is — none of the seven votes the Florida Democrat cites as evidence backs up his claim.

Mr. Grayson is circulating a petition asking voters to demand that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid lower the threshold for ending filibusters from the current 60 votes to just 55 votes.

He says Mr. Bush won seven major votes with fewer than 60 votes’ support. But in each case he either misunderstands Senate rules or gets his facts wrong.

Four of the votes were on budgets and one was on a trade agreement — all governed by special rules that prohibit filibusters. In fact, Democrats took advantage of the same rules this year to pass their own budget with just 53 votes.

Mr. Grayson says the 2003 energy bill, the result of former Vice President Dick Cheney’s energy task force, passed with 57 votes. Actually it failed on a filibuster vote, 57-40. Ironically, if Mr. Grayson’s rules had been in place, the Cheney energy policy would have passed.

And the final vote on the Medicare prescription drug bill did garner just 54 votes, but that was only after it had passed a 60-vote threshold the day before on a budget rules vote the senators agreed was akin to a filibuster vote.

Todd Jurkowski, a spokesman for the congressman, did not defend the incorrect votes listed in the online petition.

Instead, he said the Senate rules “are creating havoc.”

“What other reason is there to explain why there are 100 bills that passed the House that are sitting dormant in the Senate? The bodies are not that different politically,” Mr. Jurkowski said.

The petition has won Mr. Grayson much attention. He appeared on MSNBC on Tuesday night to talk about it, and plenty of political bloggers have written about it.

But the congressman is treading dangerously — senators of both parties bristle at outsiders telling them how to run their chamber.

Mr. Grayson’s petition specifically calls on Mr. Reid to push the rules change, but spokesman Jim Manley said that’s not going to happen, and pointed to Mr. Reid’s efforts to stop Republicans from changing the rules in 2005 to end filibusters of federal judgeships.

“It didn’t happen when Sen. [Bill] Frist tried to rewrite the rules of the Senate and is not going to happen now,” Mr. Manley said.

Mr. Grayson, who has amassed a strong liberal voting record during his short time in the House, has also notched a series of controversial statements. In one of his most famous, he said the Republicans’ health care plan “is this: Die quickly.” In his petition, he says blocking Democrats’ health care bill is killing people every day.

“Every day the Senate delays, more people die from lack of health care,” he wrote.

He also argued the Senate has been more unfair to Mr. Obama.

“This rule of legislative procedure apparently only applies to Democratic initiatives that help ordinary people. Throughout the administration of President George W. Bush, the Senate passed much of its key legislation by majority vote,” Mr. Grayson wrote.

“The filibuster should apply to the initiatives of both parties or to neither. Why should launching wars, and cutting taxes for the rich, require only 51 votes while saving lives requires 60?” he says.

But changing the rules is a painstaking process, and both Democrats and Republicans, including Mr. Obama during his four years in the Senate, have made full use of filibusters — making any change unlikely.