Speaking at a fundraiser this Sunday, Vice President Biden warned that the Senate minority’s routine use of the filibuster to obstruct the majority’s agenda is both unprecedented and dangerous:
“As long as I have served, … I’ve never seen, as my uncle once said, the constitution stood on its head as they’ve done. This is the first time every single solitary decision has required 60 senators,” Biden said. “No democracy has survived needing a supermajority.”
Biden is right about the unprecedented nature of GOP obstructionism. According to a study by UCLA Political Scientist Barbara Sinclair, only 8 percent of major legislation was subjected to the filibuster during the 1960s. That number rose to a staggering 70% during the 110th Congress — the last two years that President Bush was in office — and filibustering has only grown more common since President Obama took office. Biden and his former Senate colleagues are not powerless against this expansion of the filibuster, however. Every two years, when the Senate’s newly-elected members take their seats, a brief window opens up allowing 51 senators (or 50 senators plus the Vice President) to eliminate the filibuster by simple majority vote. If the Vice President is determined to end the era of right-wing obstructionism, all he has to do is whip up 50 votes.