Filibuster: Changing the Magic Number?


Recent reading included a short piece about a potential change to the filibuster law. If pursued, it would not come without controversy.

For those following the goings-on in Washington over the past couple of years, 60 has been the magic number for the Senate to cut off debate on legislation that lacks bipartisan support (which has been harder to find than "insert your own joke here"). Republicans have used their now 41-seat minority to block action on several issues, while Dems have offered various "perks" to gain support. The current party in power wants to lower that number to 55.

It can be done on the first day of the next session. Vice President Joe Biden can overrule the certain GOP objection and set the stage for the rule change, but how will voters react in 2012? Will they take it out on the Democrats as a "power grab?" The determining factor might be the final tally after this November’s election. A 54-46 majority might be enough to convince Dems this is their only course of action in order to achieve their objectives.

By the way, there was no cloture (the official name for the filibuster rule) before 1917. Debate could not end as long as one senator was willing to keep talking on the Senate floor. The original cloture required 67 votes; Democrats lowered that number to 60 in1975.