Even in an evenly divided Senate, lawmakers have managed to pass major bipartisan legislation.
A recent Pew Research Center review found the 117th Congress has passed legislation that requires at least 60 Senate votes at a similar rate as recent Congresses.
The Senate is currently divided 50-50 with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the tie-breaking vote, but Democrats still need Republican votes because of the filibuster, a procedure that allows senators to speak for an unlimited time. The filibuster is used as a delay tactic, but it can be ended by a procedure known as cloture, which requires 60 votes.
Pew found the Senate cleared the 60-vote cloture threshold 25 times so far in the 117th Congress, about the same rate as the 115th and 116th Congresses, and 13 bills went on to be signed into law.
The $550 billion infrastructure bill passed with 19 Republican votes including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, and Sens. Mike Crapo and James Risch of Idaho, while the gun safety reform bill — the first major gun legislation in nearly 30 years — passed with 15 Republicans votes.
Republicans have also been on board with legislation like the Ukraine Democracy Defense Lend-Lease Act, which passed with a voice vote, the Capitol Police Emergency Assistance Act of, which passed by unanimous consent, and legislation protecting veterans who were exposed to burn pits during military service, which passed 86-11.
Republicans haven’t been a rubber stamp on Democratic priorities, though, blocking voting rights legislation and the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would have codified the right to an abortion.
Still, Democrats have managed to pass legislation on their own without Republican support, thanks to budget reconciliation, a procedure that allows the Senate to pass fiscal legislation without having to override the filibuster. The Inflation Reduction Act and American Rescue Plan both passed on a party-line vote due to reconciliation.
Despite arguments about hyper-polarization in the U.S., Senate productivity proves there’s still a lot Congress can get done across party lines.
It also underscores how crucial the race for Senate majority will be in November. Each seat that flips from Democrats to Republicans or vice versa will make it that much easier, or harder, for the majority party to round up enough votes to get anything passed.