The United States Senate has a long and complicated history. The Senate filibuster, which is the longest continuous debate in world parliamentary history, was first introduced as a tactic to prevent the passage of legislation that would have been damaging to slaves.
By David Stone
However, it eventually became an instrument for obstructionism on both sides of the aisle with little regard for what is best for our country. In this blog post, we will go over some fascinating facts about the filibuster from its inception to recent rule changes made by senators themselves.
So, What is a Senate filibuster and how does it work?
A filibuster is a debate or series of speeches that delay a vote on proposed legislation. To hold up a vote, the senator proposing the filibuster must speak on the Senate floor for as long as possible. This means talking continuously, reading from documents, or making short speeches. The only way to break a filibuster is by invoking cloture, which requires a vote by at least 60 senators.
Filibusters are normally for delaying or preventing votes. Historically, they’ve also protected legislation that a senator supports, but fears defeat if the bill is not discussed further.
A famous example of this is the filibuster of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Southern senators used the filibuster to delay and ultimately defeat the bill, which would have outlawed segregation and discrimination based on race.
The history of the Senate filibuster, from its start in 1806 to today’s rules changes,
To break a filibuster you need 60 votes from the 100 members of the Senate. This means that 40 senators who support a bill can stop it if they vote against cloture or don’t show up at all.
Important exceptions are bills limited strictly to financial matters. For example, to raise the debt ceiling, a filibuster can be stopped by a simple majority.
The use of filibusters has increased dramatically since the 1970s. There were only 68 total filibusters from 1837-1970, but there have been more than 400 since then.
In November 2013, the Senate voted to change its filibuster rules for some appointments. Under the new system, executive branch nominees can be blocked by a filibuster only if they are deemed incompetent or corrupt. Supreme Court justices and judges nominated to federal courts still need 60 votes to pass.
Today, the Biden administration is trying to skirt a Senate filibuster for their Build Back Better bill. But they need every Democrat’s vote. That’s hard because Senators Manchin and Senema are balking at specific parts of the bill. I
Political observers expect this bill will be voted on in the next month, but if it doesn’t pass, Biden must refine his approach or accept a huge defeat.
The Filibuster in Recent Times
In recent years, filibusters are more frequent, especially by Republicans as a way to obstruct legislation proposed by Democrats. In 2013, then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) changed Senate rules. Now, nominations need only a simple majority vote. This change responded to Republican obstructionism during President Obama’s first term.
More recently, in 2017, Senators Rand Paul (R-KY) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) led a filibuster against the proposed Republican health care bill. This was unsuccessful, however, as the bill eventually passed in the Senate by a narrow margin.
The Future of the Filibuster
There has been much talk in recent years about possible changes to the filibuster rule. Some senators have called for doing away with it altogether. Others argue for preserving it but reformed, making it available only in cases of genuine obstructionism. Whatever happens, the filibuster will continue to play a significant role in Senate proceedings for years to come.
So there you have it! A brief history of the U.S. Senate filibuster from its inception to the present day. I hope this gives you a better understanding of what
Why has the US Senate changed its rules for filibusters?
The U.S. Senate has changed its rules for filibusters many times throughout history, but it always benefits the majority party – not necessarily in the best interest of our country as a whole.
What are some interesting facts about the filibuster?
- -The filibuster was first used in the Senate in 1806 to prevent the passage of legislation that would have been damaging to slaves.
- -It eventually became an instrument for obstructionism on both sides of the aisle with little regard for what is best for our country.
When Senate filibusters are most often used
Filibusters serve many purposes. Here are some examples…
- To delay or prevent votes on bills that the filibustering senator opposes
- To delay or prevent votes on important but potentially controversial legislation
- As a way to express dissent without actually voting against a bill
The Senate Filibuster Conclusion
The filibuster is one of the most important features of American government. It has been used by both Democrats and Republicans over time, but it’s not always clear what should happen to this relic from a simpler era.
Some would argue that preserving the Senate filibuster reserves unearned power for the minority party while others view it as an outdated practice that needs to be replaced with something more modern.
When you think about where we are today, do you believe that the US Senate should keep or get rid of its filibusters?