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In discussing Republican efforts to implement President Donald Trump’s agenda, U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI) blamed the U.S. Senate’s filibuster rule for preventing Trump’s agenda from being passed into law.
"Get rid of the filibuster rule’’ Duffy said July 17, 2017 on Fox News Channel’s "Fox & Friends" show. "(Then) you only need 51 votes."
Then, the congressman went further:
"We’ve won a thousand seats since Obamacare," he said. "The American people want us to accomplish this agenda, and we’re not getting it done because of stupid Senate rules."
Duffy also made the 1,000-seat assertion during an appearance on "Varney & Co." the same day on the Fox Business Network.
"We’ve won a historical election," Duffy said. "We have a thousand seats we’ve won since Obamacare."
Has the GOP really picked up 1,000 seats since the Affordable Care Act was enacted in 2010?
Digging into the numbers
Let’s start at the state level, where most of the positions in question lie.
According to Ballotpedia: The Encyclopedia of American Politics, the Republican Party held more seats in 82 of 99 state legislative chambers (82.3 percent) in January 2017 than it did in January 2009.
The website says:
"During President Barack Obama's two terms in office, Democrats experienced a net loss of 968 state legislative seats, the largest net loss of state legislative seats in this category since World War II. The second-largest loss occurred following Dwight D. Eisenhower’s two terms in office, when Republicans were handed a net loss of 843 state legislative seats."
An accompanying chart lists the five largest losses in state legislative seats for Democrats during Obama’s two terms: Arkansas state Senate (18 seats), West Virginia state Senate (16 seats lost), Arkansas House of Representatives (46 seats), West Virginia House of Representatives (43 seats) and Oklahoma state Senate (16 seats.)
There were other losses.
According to an article on FoxNews.com, "Democratic U.S. Senate seats fell from 55 to 46. Their share of the House plummeted from 256 seats to 194. … Democratic governerships also became a rarity during this eight-year period, slipping from 28 to 16."
After the election of Obama, there was much talk of a new era -- that a coalition of young, minority and female voters would usher in gains for the Democrats for decades.
That did not happen.
"The defeats have all but wiped out a generation of young Democrats, leaving the party with limited power in statehouses and a thin bench to challenge an ascendant GOP majority eager to undo many of the president’s policies," according to a Dec. 24, 2016 Associated Press article.
"After this year’s elections, Democrats hold the governor’s office and both legislative chambers in just five coastal states: Oregon, California, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Delaware," the article said. "Republicans have the trifecta in 25, giving them control of a broad swath of the middle of the country."
Duffy’s communications director, Mark Bednar, pointed us to an article in the January/February 2017 edition of Politico magazine titled "Democrats in the Wilderness," which maintains Democrats are facing a crisis in coming years.
The article, written by Edward-Isaac Dovere, says the party’s situation is "the result of years of complacency, ignoring the withering of the grass roots and the state parties, sitting by as Republicans racked up local win after local win."
Matt Bennett, a co-founder and vice president of public affairs of the Third Way, an organization that describes itself as "a strategy center for progressives," confirmed the figure.
"Yes, it’s true at the state legislative level," he said. "Dems have lost about 1,000 seats."
While Duffy did not directly blame Obamacare for the loss of every seat, he presented it as the primary reason for the Republican gains and Democrat declines. But every race is different, and many other factors come into play -- from newly drawn districts to the performance by individual candidates and a host of issues.
So, he oversteps a bit in framing it entirely around Obamacare.
Duffy said "We’ve won a thousand seats since Obamacare."
There are many reasons for the decline of Democrats beyond dissatisfaction with Obamacare, including frustration over Washington gridlock, voters’ fears over budget deficits, national security, immigration, tax reform, the global economy, wages and jobs. Therefore, Obamacare is not the sole reason for the GOP seat gains, but one of many. But the "thousand seats" figure Duffy cites is accurate.
We rate Duffy’s claim Mostly True.
"As Obama accomplished policy goals, his party floundered." Dec. 24, 2016, Lisa Lerer of the Associated Press.
"Democrats lost over 1,000 seats under Obama," Dec. 27, 2016, Fox News.com
U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Wis., appearance, "Fox & Friends," July 17, 2017.
U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Wis., appearance, "Varney & Co," on the Fox Business Network, July 17, 2017
"Democrats in the Wilderness," Politico magazine January/February 2017 edition.
Email from Rep. Sean Duffy’s spokesman Mark Bednar
Email from Matt Bennett, vice president of public affairs of the Third Way,
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