DEMOCRATS' BAD MATH. Late Wednesday afternoon, President Joe Biden tweeted his frustration over the Senate's failure to pass a Democratic bill, the "Women's Health Protection Act," which would codify Roe v. Wade and forbid states from passing future laws limiting abortion. Here is the president's tweet:

As fundamental rights are at risk at the Supreme Court, Senate Republicans have blocked passage of the Women's Health Protection Act. They have chosen to stand in the way of Americans' rights to make the most personal decisions about their own bodies, families and lives.

What to say? Start with the actual Senate vote. It was a cloture vote, meaning it was on the subject of ending debate and moving to a final vote, rather than the final vote itself. As such, with the Senate's filibuster rule, it had to achieve 60 votes to move forward. It got nowhere near that, failing with 49 senators in favor of moving ahead and 51 opposed. The 49 who supported the bill were all Democrats. The 51 opposed were all 50 Republicans plus Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV).

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Many Democrats, of course, want to get rid of the filibuster. But here's the thing: Even if you get rid of the filibuster, to pass a bill, you still have to have more votes than the other side. On the abortion bill, the president and the Democratic leadership could muster only 49 votes on their side, while the other side had 51. Not to be too obvious, but 51 beats 49.

Nevertheless, some on the Left blamed the filibuster for a vote that Democratic leadership would have lost even if there were no filibuster. For example, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) said of the vote, "I believe in democracy, and I don't believe the minority should have the ability to block things that the majority wants to do. That's not in the Constitution. ... It's time to get rid of the filibuster."

The problem with Warren's protest, of course, is that a majority of the Senate, with 51 votes, opposed moving the abortion bill forward. And all 51 of the votes against the bill were votes against the substance of the bill. No one was using the vote as a protest or to make a statement. They simply opposed the bill. The minority did not block a thing that the majority wanted to do. A majority blocked a thing that the minority, Warren's side, wanted to do. Getting rid of the filibuster would not have changed the result.

Even when she's wrong, Warren can count on a progressive cheering section to support her positions. When one of Warren's colleagues, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), tweeted, "No the Senate bill codifying Roe did not pass, but tomorrow we get up and we fight again. And in November, we take that fight right to the ballot box," the leftist journalist Josh Marshall responded: "100%. But you cannot 'take the fight right to the ballot box' unless you state an outcome that can be won at the ballot box. To do that you must have 50 senators to change the filibuster rules to allow a vote. Without getting everyone on the record now you're just wasting time.”

That sort of thinking is common in some Democratic circles. Of course, it is true that the filibuster often allows a Senate minority to stop a bill supported by a majority unless the majority can muster 60 votes on its side. That can be extremely frustrating to the majority, but over the years, it has stopped the Senate from passing a lot of ill-considered legislation. It also allows the Senate to kill bad bills coming out of the House, where a simple majority can pass anything. It encourages bipartisanship and discourages passing bills on straight party-line votes. And if one party has 60-plus members in the Senate, enough to overcome a filibuster on its own, that itself is evidence the party has broad support.

The reason many Democrats are so frustrated is not the filibuster but that their hold on power on Capitol Hill is so tenuous. They have a tiny majority in the House and no majority at all in the 50-50 Senate. To pass a bill on a party-line vote in the Senate, they have to win the support of all 50 Democrats and then call on Vice President Kamala Harris to break a tie. Losing even one Democrat, such as Manchin, ruins the plan. To put it plainly, this has driven some Democrats and their media cheerleaders absolutely crazy in the last year and a half.

Biden spent 36 years in the Senate. He knows how it works. And thus, he knows what the problem is: Democrats don't have enough votes to do big things. In a candid moment speaking to reporters about inflation this week, he was asked, "Why do you believe so many Americans believe that your administration is not doing enough to combat inflation?" Biden answered: "The first is, we're in power. That's the first thing. And you — justifiably right, we control all three branches of government." But then Biden continued: "Well, we don't, really. We have 50-50 in the Senate. You need 60 votes to get major things done. I've been pushing the things I've been proposing here, as you've heard me speak to today, since I got in office. And I have — I need to get 60 votes to be able to even pass them."

The Senate does not work well when both parties have 50 votes. Getting anything done can be a struggle. In the past, when an election left the Senate tied 50-50, a senator would change parties to give one side an actual majority. But that hasn't happened this time. Hopefully, this November's elections will give one party decisive control over the Senate, not the nominal control that Democrats have now.

But here is one thing that will not change. To win a vote in the Senate, you need to have more votes than the other side. When you have 49 votes and the other side has 51 votes, you will not win. And you cannot claim to be in the majority, either. It just doesn't work that way.

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