The Republican minority in the Senate has used and abused the practice of filibusters to obstruct the Democrats’ agenda. The number of Senate cloture votes, which require a supermajority of 60, “more than doubled — from 54 to 112 — from the 109th Congress (2005-2006) to the 110th (2007-2008), according to the Senate historical office.” James Fallows points to this Wikipedia chart for evidence of how “a-historical the current Senate practice” is:
The White House is giving new indications that it is preparing to go to battle against this abuse. At a fundraiser last week, Vice President Joe Biden said, “No democracy has survived needing a supermajority.”
Biden’s communications director, Jay Carney, further made the case: “When one looks at the soaring number of cloture votes required to do business in the Senate — double the numbers of a decade ago, triple the numbers of 20 years ago — it raises a legitimate question about whether this power is being used to protect the minority or merely to obstruct action and progress.”
“The Republican strategy in the Senate is to turn 50 into 60, in other words no longer do you need a majority to carry the day in the Senate. You need 60 votes for everything because the Republicans are filibustering every single bill,” he said. “We need to call that out, and they need to explain to the American people whether throwing a wrench into everything at a time of national emergency is the appropriate policy. They want to win and election and take us back to the policies that got us into this mess in the first place.”
Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) has proposed legislation that would gradually lower the number of votes the Senate majority would need to block filibusters from 60 to, ultimately, a simple majority. More and more Democratic Senators appear to be increasingly agitated about the issue. Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) told blogger-activist Mike Stark this week that the Democratic caucus was “working through” how to get around the 60-vote threshold for moving legislation. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) told Rachel Maddow this past week that she “would love” to change the filibuster rule, but that it’s “not realistic.” And today on ABC’s This Week, Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) railed against the Republicans’ “unprecedented” use of the filibuster.