The modern filibuster dates to 1917, when it required 100% of senators to vote for clouture and end debate. Prior to this rules change – a filibuster simply could not be stopped.
Forty years later, in 1959, it was none other than the liberal firebrand Vice President Richard Nixon who presided over a Senate rules change – by a simple majority – that brought the required votes to end a filibuster down to a two-thirds majority.
Sixteen years after that and – lo and behold! – another Republican Vice President, Nelson Rockefeller, presided over another rules change using the ‘Constitutional option’ (fancy talk for a simple majority) to bring the required votes for cloture down to 60. That was 1975.
Now, here we are, almost 40 years further down the road. The filibuster has been so abused by the Republican minority that it is barely recognizable. In fact, they have taken the 60-vote cloture rule and tacitly applied it to EVERY Senate vote. Until Obama was sworn in as the nation’s 44th President, 51 votes was a working majority in the Senate. But then, Mitch McConnell decided that the new working majority would be 60 votes.
The tacit filibuster. No one has to get up an speak for hours or into the night. (Raffy Cruz’s recent media stunt was a fundraising appeal, not a filibuster – as he was not delaying any vote on any bill.) Since Obama was elected, the GOP in the Senate has used this ‘non-talking filibuster’ more than FIVE HUNDRED TIMES.
In the United States, our elections are won by the candidate who wins a simple majority of the votes cast. 50%+1. That’s how every Senator is elected. When the Republicans get to DC and discover they did not win enough elections to hold the majority in the Senate, they make a de facto rules change: the new majority = 60 votes. Not just to break a filibuster, but 60 votes required for passage of… everything.
Change the filibuster, Senator Reid, for the remaining year of this 113th Congress. Require a simple majority to break a filibuster. Take the matches away from little Johnny McConnell – before he burns down the Capitol. Get the President’s appointments to federal courts and administrative positions filled, and immediately. It is his Constitutional right to nominate, the Senate’s Constitutional duty to affirm. And it is our right, as Americans, to have a fair and functioning Senate.