I want to spend one more moment top top this good graph Todd Lindeman worked up because that my pillar on the constitutionality the the filibuster.

You are watching: How many filibusters have there been


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(Graph: Todd Lindeman; Data: Senate.gov)

What she seeing below are the number of “cloture” motions in every congressional session since 1919. Cloture is the procedure provided to rest a filibuster. In between 1919 and also 1975, a effective cloture motion forced two-thirds the the Senate. Today, it requires three-fifths, or, in situations where all 100 senators space present and voting, 60 votes. As you deserve to see, the bulk is having actually to shot and rest many, many, many much more filibusters than ever before before.

This is an imperfect measure. Top top the one hand, it’s susceptible to changes in congressional strategy: If the bulk begins trying to break the filibuster much more often, you can see more cloture votes, even though the filibuster isn’t actually being supplied any an ext frequently. On the various other side, the misses the many, many, numerous filibusters that never ever receive a cloture vote, either since the majority decides the a cloture vote is also time-consuming — simply holding a cloture poll takes around 30 hrs of floor time — or due to the fact that they won’t victory it.

That said, the is, at least, a reasonably consistent measure, and it’s the ideal one us have. And also most observers agree that its straightforward point is correct: We’re seeing many more filibusters this particular day than we ever did before. But I in reality think that’s the wrong means to think about it.

The issue today isn’t that we check out 50, or 100, or 150 filibusters. It’s the the filibuster is a consistent where it offered to it is in a rarity. Indeed, the shouldn’t also be referred to as “the filibuster”: It has nothing to perform with talking, or hold the floor. It need to be dubbed the 60-vote requirement. It applies to every little thing now also when the minority does no specifically select to invoke it. There room no longer, to mine knowledge, categories of bills that don’t gain filibustered because such points are just not done, though there space bills the the minority chooses no to invoke their 60-vote alternative on. It is why harry Reid claims things favor “60 votes are forced for just about everything,” though there space a small number of bills whereby the majority uses the spending plan reconciliation procedure to short-circuit the 60-vote requirement.

An exciting implication that this graph: The filibuster has become an ext common even as it’s end up being easier come break. Until 1917, the filibuster couldn’t be stopped. And also until 1975, you required two-thirds the the Senate, quite than three-fifths. So as it’s end up being less powerful, that become much more common. What that method is that the climb of the filibuster is largely around “norms” in the Senate. It didn’t become an ext effective and thus much more popular. The actually came to be less effective, yet parties decided to usage it more.

There’s an exciting question around exactly as soon as this change in norms happened. If girlfriend look in ~ the graph, you have three significant moments of discontinuity. One, approximately 1972, that shows up to provoke reform of the filibuster rule so cloture is much easier to achieve. Another, in the early 1990s, that seems covers the latter fifty percent of George H.W. Bush’s administration and the start of invoice Clinton’s presidency. And then the exercise absolutely skyrockets as soon as Barack Obama take away office.

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We deserve to argue around why there were these jumps. However their long-term result seems to be to advanced the bar permanently. Every time filibustering i do not care much an ext common, the pretty much remains at the level, even as Congress and also the White House transforms hands. Therefore the filibuster becomes more common under bill Clinton, however remains practically that common under George W. Bush.

For much more on the filibuster, this is Greg Koger make the case that it’s plainly constitutional. Jonathan Bernstein agrees through him. Here’s much more from Common reason on their lawsuit.