The History and Impact of Filibusters in the United States Senate

TLDR Filibusters have a long history in the United States Senate, dating back to the 19th century. They have been used to bring attention to issues, delay bills, and block legislation, with the most recent Congress seeing a high number of cloture votes. Despite its controversial nature, the filibuster rules have remained largely unchanged due to the balance of power in the Senate.

Timestamped Summary

00:00 The filibuster is a procedural rule in the United States Senate that allows senators to speak for as long as they want on any subject until three-fifths of the members vote to end debate, and it has a long history dating back to the 19th century.
02:34 Filibusters have been used throughout history in various countries, including Canada, the UK, the Philippines, and Austria, but the United States Senate is known for its frequent use of filibusters.
04:44 In 1806, the Senate dropped the rule which allowed for the calling of the previous question, leading to the first instances of filibusters in the US Senate in the 1830s and 1840s.
07:01 During World War I, a group of anti-war senators filibustered a proposal to arm US merchant vessels, leading President Woodrow Wilson to push for a rule allowing cloture to close debate and bring a bill to a vote.
09:14 Filibusters have been used by senators to bring attention to issues or delay bills, such as Senator Huey Long's personal filibusters in the 1930s and Senator Wayne Morse's filibusters for media coverage in the 1950s, and serious and long filibusters became more common during the civil rights era, with Southern Democrats going to extreme measures to block civil rights legislation from coming to a vote.
11:35 In 1972, a rules change in the Senate introduced a two-track system of legislation, making filibustering easier and resulting in an explosion of filibusters and cloture votes, with the most recent Congress seeing 336 motions for cloture and a 93% success rate.
14:01 The balance of power in the Senate and the potential for it to easily change in the next election is likely why no party has made significant changes to the filibuster rules, despite both defending and attacking it depending on their party's majority or minority status.
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