Senate Gridlock – the Filibuster Factor – Update

Download PDF Report >>> Senate Gridlock Filibuster Trends-Update

A newer version of this Analysis exists: Senate Gridlock – the Filibuster Factor 2012

This posting is an update of an earlier post that records actual data through 2010. Americans of all political persuasions are more and more frustrated with the gridlock that has almost brought Washington to a standstill. Republicans’ use of filibuster has reached unprecedented levels with no signs of abating. But it was not always so.

The Senate posts filibuster data back to 1919. Records track three items.

  • First, cloture motions to end debate which occur when a minority of senators call for a motion to filibuster. That sometimes ends the filibuster.
  • Second, once a motion has passed, there is a vote on cloture.
  • Third is recording if cloture succeeds, if the filibuster is overridden or not.

senate gridlock1a

In the graph above, only 56 cloture motions were filed over 52 years from 1919 through 1970. At just over one per year, filibusters were rarely used. 420 cloture motions were filed over the next 22 years, from 1971 to 1992, a sharp increase to 19 per year.

1993-1994 saw Republicans’ “Contract with America” that escalated partisanship to higher levels. When Democrats became a minority in 1995, motions leveled off at the higher level. From 1993-2006, motions nearly doubled to 36 per year. . Cloture motions took an even more dramatic upturn in 2007 when Republicans lost control of the Senate. Cloture motions again jumped sharply to almost 70 per year. Clearly, filibuster became the weapon of choice for Republicans.

Republicans accuse Democrats of filibustering, and there is some truth to that. But as the graphs show, Republicans (red bars)  initiated each spike and have now taken filibustering to an absurd new level. Virtually every major piece of legislation runs the filibuster gamut.

senate gridlock2a

Americans hold Congress in low esteem because of gridlock. Neither party is blameless. Americans want achievement, but that requires both parties to act in good faith. The frequency of filibuster threats does not reflect well on Republicans’ acting in good faith.

Credit Republicans with discipline. They threaten any of their own party who don’t tow the party line. While that increases the effect of their filibuster threats, it is essentially a negative strategy. They’re adamant about their own ideas but they just say “NO” to Democratic ideas.

For decades, filibusters served Congress well as a method for the minority to put some checks on the majority. But the nation’s founders never envisioned this turn of events. The constitution requires the VP to break Senate vote ties clearly indicating that 51 % is a majority. Republicans lost majority through the ballot. Their reliance on filibuster to wrestle power back is not a recipe to reduce people’s frustration with gridlock.

senate gridlock3a

Source Document shown below: http://www.senate.gov/pagelayout/reference/cloture_motions/clotureCounts.htm

Senate Filibuster

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Download PDF Report >>> Senate Gridlock Filibuster Trends-Update

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One Response

  1. Nice read, I just passed this onto a friend who was doing some research on that. And he just bought me lunch as I found it for him smile Thus let me rephrase that: Thank you for lunch!

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