One of the greatest obstacles to passing progressive legislation in Congress has been the use of the filibuster in the Senate. With upwards of “40 cloture votes since the start of the 111th Congress in January, this Senate is on pace to record the second-largest number of filibuster roll calls,” transforming what was intended to be a seldom-used procedural tactic into an all-out tool for obstructionism. Now, a new CBS/New York Times poll finds that more Americans support ending the filibuster and requiring legislation to pass by a simple majority:
As you may know, the Senate operates under procedures that effectively require 60 votes, out of 100, for most legislation to pass, allowing a minority of as few as 41 senators to block a majority. Do you think this procedure should remain in place, or do you think it should be changed so that legislation is passed with a simple majority?
Should remain 44
Should be changed 50
[Don’t Know] 6
Changing the filibuster would not be without precedent. In 1975, the filibuster threshold was lowered from 67 to 60. Sens. Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) have introduced legislation that would “change Senate procedure to create a four-step process that would eventually allow a majority of 51 votes, rather than 60, for cloture — ending debate and moving to a final vote on passage of a bill.” Yet Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has “dismissed the effort” as unlikely to succeed. OpenLeft’s Chris Bowers has an ongoing whip count for the effort to pass Harkin’s reforms here.