The filibuster has gone from affecting 8 percent of big bills in the 1950s to 70 percent in the 2000s
Over at U.S. News and World Report, Robert Schlesinger attaches some more numbers to the rise of the filibuster:
The fact of the matter is that the frequency of filibusters has increased by a factor of 50 since the days of (then-Democrat) Strom Thurmond jaw-jacking for 24 hours to stop a civil rights bill. So too has the general use of delaying tactics on major pieces of legislation. Consider some data points.
According to research by UCLA political scientist Barbara Sinclair, there was an average of one filibuster per Congress during the 1950s. That number has grown steadily since and spiked in 2007 and 2008 (the 110th Congress), when there were 52 filibusters. More broadly, according to Sinclair, while 8 percent of major legislation in the 1960s was subject to "extended-debate-related problems" like filibusters, 70 percent of major bills were so targeted during the 110th Congress.
Read that again: from 8 percent -- pretty infrequently -- to 70 percent, or rule of the day. (These data come from Sinclair and from her chapter in CQ Press's Congress Reconsidered.)
I can't emphasize this enough: Things are not as they have always been. The filibuster has transformed, and the Senate has followed suit, and it all happened accidentally, not with anyone debating the consequences and implications of adding a supermajority requirement to the American legislative process.
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