The filibuster is not in the Constitution. But each house is allowed to make their own procedural rules. The Senate rules, unlike the House, trying to be a more “deliberative” body (and with fewer members in the early days) allowed unlimited debate on the floor and unlimited “yields” (handoffs to allies). During such speechifying, no other business could be conducted.
It took a 2/3 vote to stop a debate.
The filibuster arose when Southern conservative senators wanted to block bills, especially in the area of civil rights. Not having the votes, they simply stood and spoke under the rules allowing “unlimited debate” and kept on speaking, handing off (yielding) to accomplices as needed for breaks, and thus preventing any other business from going forward.
Finally, they made a compromise in the Senate rules: they would lower the cloture vote from 2/3 to 3/5 (60 votes in a 100-member senate) and not require senators to actually speak; just invoke filibuster by motion, and allow other business to still proceed on a “two track” basis.
Taking out the hard work of hours and hours of speaking made it easier to invoke and, once Obama became president and McConnell embarked on an unprecedented racist obstruction of the first African-American president, he made a 60-vote supermajority the de facto standard for passing any legislation, with more filibusters during the Obama years than the entire history of all prior administrations COMBINED and then, when he regained the majority, essentially did away with the filibuster for all confirmations and for budget bills (budget reconciliation).
McConnell’s unprecedented ABUSE of filibuster, coupled with the built-in (Constitutional) disproportionate allocation of senate representation, transformed it from a tool for the minority to have a voice in developing legislation, to utter tyranny of the majority, in which senators representing 16% of the population could overrule an overwhelming majority.
May 31, 2016
May 24, 2016