The primary argument against reforming or abolishing the Filibuster seems to be that if (realistically, when) Republicans take control of the government again, there would be nothing keeping them from ramming through their legislative agenda over the objections of the minority party.

Yet when I think back to the last time Republicans held a trifecta in the US government (from 2017-2019), it's hard to think of any legislation that they wanted to implement which was blocked by the filibuster. Their main legislative achievement (the Trump tax bill) was passed using reconciliation, while the ACA repeal would also have passed using reconciliation, but it failed to even get 50 votes.

The question is: what, if any, legislation did Republicans try to pass during the period of total control which was blocked by the filibuster? That would be legislation (or major parts of legislation) that passed the House, had the approval of the President, and had the support of >50 but <60 Senators and could be blocked a filibuster (ie. not subject to reconciliation) during the 115th Congress.

To address some concerns raised in the comments:

  • I know that it's possible that some priorities were not pursued since the existence of the filibuster made passage unlikely. I've noticed that politicians often push bills with no chance of passage to show their constituents that they're trying to address their concerns and to push the blame onto the other party for blocking them. I'm not looking for everything, just a few examples of bills that could have passed had the filibuster not existed.
  • The concern has been raised that very few bills are killed directly by the filibuster – often they simply never come to a vote once it's clear they won't get 60 votes. That's why I'm focusing on the >50 but <60 Senator threshold.
  • People have raised the difference between a failed cloture vote and an actual filibuster. I'd argue that this isn't a meaningful distinction anymore: the filibuster hasn't been about standing up and holding the floor for hours until you collapse for decades. Since filibusters can currently be kept up indefinitely with zero effort or effect on Senate business, the cloture vote is what makes a filibuster. In the kind of case I'm looking for, the bill was voted on, it got majority support, but was blocked by the filibuster's 60-vote requirement. That's different from a case where a bill was not brought up or voted on and Senators never had to go on the record.
  • Some examples of examples pushed by the Democrats are:
  • 5
    One problem with answering this is that we don’t know what possible legislation they chose to not bother even trying to pass because they knew it would just be filibustered anyway.
    – GendoIkari
    Commented Mar 26, 2021 at 5:46
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    @GendoIkari That’s definitely a concern, but I’ve noticed that politicians generally bring their priorities forward anyway so they can tell their constituents that they tried and blame the failure on the opposing party. I’m not looking for 100% of them, just some examples
    – divibisan
    Commented Mar 26, 2021 at 13:23
  • Arguably, the filibuster indirectly contributed to the failure of ACA repeal, since reconciliation severely restricted what kind of new policies can be enacted as part of the ACA repeal, and the inability to enact replacement policies to replace the ACA once repealed, made it difficult to get enough Republican senators to agree on a single bill.
    – user102008
    Commented Mar 26, 2021 at 21:46
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    @user102008 I thought of that, but I wasn’t sure if there was any replacement plan that would have got the votes of 50 Republicans. Might be a good avenue to explore
    – divibisan
    Commented Mar 26, 2021 at 22:18

1 Answer 1


Yes, Democrats used the filibuster to kill the late-term abortion ban bill in 2018. It had passed the House, had the support of the majority of the Senate, and would’ve been signed by President Trump.

The bill, which was passed by the House of Representatives in Oct. 2017, is opposed by most Senate Democrats. To prevent a filibuster, Republicans needed Democratic support, in addition to the votes of the 51 Republican Senators. Democratic Senators Bob Casey, Joe Manchin, and Joe Donnelly supported the motion. Republican Senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski voted against it.

Now technically Senate Democrats never used the filibuster, they defeated a vote for cloture which would have then blocked the use of filibuster. But that motion has the same 60-vote threshold and most observers treat blocking a cloture vote and a filibuster as functionally the same thing.

This was a rare example of an instance where Republicans forced the issue to get congressional Democrats on the record supporting a highly unpopular position ahead of the election cycle. But as you note, there are probably far, far more examples of legislation that would've passed both houses on a simple majority vote, but were never brought in the first place because it wouldn't have passed cloture. So the answer to "Has any recent Republican legislation been blocked solely by the filibuster?" is yes, probably dozens, if not hundreds. But it's a bit difficult to nail down specific bills because filibuster threats are often private, and vague when public. When Chuck Schumer sent a letter saying Democrats "strongly opposed" border wall funding, deregulating Wall Street, and defunding Planned Parenthood, the AP reported that he "implicitly threatens a filibuster showdown." But the threat was never explicit.

  • It might be considered the same but cloture is just limiting debate to 30 additional hours. But you do have a point about most use of the filibuster being private and unknown to most.
    – Joe W
    Commented Apr 1, 2021 at 13:43
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    @Joe W- In this case it's largely an academic distinction. The bill failed because supporters couldn't invoke cloture to prevent the opposition from filibustering it indefinitely. By any reasonable definition, it was "blocked by the filibuster." Commented Apr 1, 2021 at 13:49
  • This is exactly the kind of example I’m looking for. The goal was to find examples where Republicans were willing to go on the record if favor of a bill and wanted to force Democrats to be the ones to kill it, as opposed to just letting it die quietly.
    – divibisan
    Commented Apr 1, 2021 at 15:02
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    In this particular case, fact that it didn’t get 50 Republican votes suggests that it might not have passed without the filibuster, as the Democratic “yes” votes would have faced a lot more pressure to vote “no” if their votes mattered. But the fact that the Republicans were willing to take a stand here suggests that this is the kind of thing they’d actually push in a 50-vote Senate
    – divibisan
    Commented Apr 1, 2021 at 15:03
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    @divibisan The problem with saying they were willing to go on the record with a yes vote to support the bill is that can be said to be true for every bill that gets filibustered. I think the issue here is that people don't want to go on record for opposing a bill as it is much easier to say you would have supported it but it never came up to a vote.
    – Joe W
    Commented Apr 6, 2021 at 18:23

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