With 41 Democrats now supporting a filibuster of Neil Gorsuch’s nomination to the Supreme Court, we are looking at the end of the talk-a-thon as we know it.
I wrote earlier Monday about how eliminating the 60-vote threshold to end debate on Supreme Court nominations is just another step down the slippery slope of the Senate’s evolution into the House.
Whether or not you agree with the Democratic filibuster strategy or the likely Republican response of eliminating the need for 60 votes to end debate on a Supreme Court nomination, what’s hard to deny is that the use of the filibuster has surged in recent years – reaching historically high heights as polarization has soared in both the country and the Congress.
This chart – via The Week – tells that story powerfully.
The rising use of the filibuster – cloture motions are filed to end debate and often fail if 60 votes aren’t available – is undeniable and somewhat eye-popping.
According to Vital Statistics on Congress, which keeps track of these sorts of things, there were 218 cloture attempts in the 113th Congress with 187 of those succeeding. (The 113th Congress, which covers the 2013 and 2014, is the most recent data on cloture and filibusters we have.)
That marked only the second time ever the number of cloture motions reached triple digits; in the 110th Congress, 112 cloture motions were filed with less than half – 61 – succeeding.
There are lots and lots of reasons to explain the soaring filibuster numbers. Senate Republicans insist that former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s refusal to allow amendments – or even the debate of amendments – left them with no choice but to use the filibuster early and often over the past few years.
The rising partisanship in the country – and the surge in outside groups rewarding “principled stands” on issues rather than compromise – has played a role too. As has the influx of former House members into the ranks of the Senate – and the rise of cable TV and partisan media sites which turn filibusters into reality show drama for the masses.
Regardless of who you blame – and the truth is there’s plenty of blame to go around – the fact is that the filibuster had moved far, far from its original intent of being such a serious thing that it was used sparingly.