Bold progressive Elizabeth Warren has announced that one of her first priorities as a new senator will be to reform the filibuster — which essentially forces lawmakers to use two-thirds of the vote to pass anything to overcome it — in the Senate.
Why do we need reform? Here’s a graph from the nonpartisan Century Foundation that shows the number of cloture votes — the votes invoked to overcome a filibuster — over the past fifty years. As you can see, the filibuster is being used at a rate dozens of times higher than it was during the middle of the twentieth century:
Keep in mind that these filibusters do not involve the Mr. Smith Goes To Washington long speeches or drawn out stands on the Senate floor. Now, senators simply announce their intent to instruct and then waltz off to fundraisers and galas.
Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) explained this during his appearance on Up With Chris Hayes this weekend:
MERKLEY: We’re trying to make the filibuster actually work the way it was intended. That is that folks have to make their case known before their colleagues, before their American colleagues. That they can’t simply use the silent filibuster we have now to kill things in the dead of the night. […] The talking filibuster says that if you’re going to obstruct or say there is to be more debate the public has to weigh in and say if you’re a hero or a bum.