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Saturday, March 5, 2005
By Dr. Steven Taylor

Well, maybe not. A quick glance at the Senate’s page we find some info on Filibuster and Cloture:

In 1841, when the Democratic minority hoped to block a bank bill promoted by Henry Clay, Clay threatened to change Senate rules to allow the majority to close debate. Thomas Hart Benton angrily rebuked his colleague, accusing Clay of trying to stifle the Senate’s right to unlimited debate. Unlimited debate remained in place in the Senate until 1917. At that time, at the suggestion of President Woodrow Wilson, the Senate adopted a rule (Rule 22) that allowed the Senate to end a debate with a two-thirds majority vote — a tactic known as “cloture.”

The new Senate rule was put to the test in 1919, when the Senate invoked cloture to end a filibuster against the Treaty of Versailles. Despite the new cloture rule, however, filibusters continued to be an effective means to block legislation, due in part to the fact that a two-thirds majority vote is difficult to obtain. Over the next several decades, the Senate tried numerous times to evoke cloture, but failed to gain the necessary two-thirds vote. Filibusters were particularly useful to southern senators blocking civil rights legislation in the 1950s and 1960s. In 1975, the Senate reduced the number of votes required for cloture from two-thirds (67) to three-fifths (60) of the 100-member Senate.

So, changes are possible–whaddya know.

Since Senator Byrd is not only the self-appointed historian of the Senate and was the Majority Whip when this change took place, I would think that he could have worked some of these facts into his speech the other day.

Indeed, as Whip he would have been a central actor in the change from 67 to 60 votes for cloture. The irony and hypocrisy here are quite deep.

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Filed under: US Politics | |


  1. I heard that Britney Spears is related to the great orator Henry Clay. Is that true?

    Comment by John Lemon — Saturday, March 5, 2005 @ 3:01 pm

  2. I mentioned this in a comment awhile ago to one of your entries the last time you were discussing filibustering in detail. Glad you picked up this fact someplace. :)

    Comment by Jacob — Saturday, March 5, 2005 @ 5:07 pm

  3. My original comment.

    I agree, Senator Byrd is obviously not really trying very hard if he is ignoring his past action. As the article I cited pointed out, Byrd was /the/ principle actor back on 1976.

    Comment by Jacob — Saturday, March 5, 2005 @ 5:17 pm

  4. Thanks Jacob. I’m glad that somebody is paying attention to my entries. Whadya say that you and I investigate the Britney-Henry link and write a book about it.

    Comment by John Lemon — Saturday, March 5, 2005 @ 6:30 pm

  5. More from the Klansman
    Steven Taylor points out that in addition to eliding his own role in the anti-Civil Rights Act filibusters of the 1960s, perennial Signifying Nothing foil Robert Byrd seems to be forgetting that he was Senate Majority Whip (the second most…

    Trackback by Signifying Nothing — Saturday, March 5, 2005 @ 6:49 pm

  6. Jacob,

    I must’ve skimmed past your comment. Thanks for noting it. The whole thing is rather amazing, really.

    Comment by Steven Taylor — Saturday, March 5, 2005 @ 7:06 pm

  7. Senator (Grand Wizard) Byrd’s a Hypocrite
    Bah hah hah hah hah

    I am so moved by Senator Byrd’s undying respect for the Senate’s traditions that I must ask him to go further to make his point. If he wants the American people to really understand how serious a threat to democracy is the inv…

    Trackback by Hennessy's View — Saturday, March 5, 2005 @ 7:17 pm

  8. Here’s a link I found earlier this weeks with more details on the Grand Wizard’s, I mean, the Good Sentator’s efforts in 1975

    Comment by Bill Hennessy — Saturday, March 5, 2005 @ 7:20 pm

  9. Robert Byrd and the Filibuster
    Steven Taylor has been blogging up a storm on the media-appointed Conscience of the Senate, Robert Byrd, and his ever-shifting views on the inviolability of the filibuster. He chronicles the history of the filibuster, and notes the many changes to the…

    Trackback by Outside The Beltway — Sunday, March 6, 2005 @ 9:18 am

  10. I’ve been of two minds on the filibuster issue. On the one hand, I don’t like the idea of changing the parliamentary rules to gain a political advantage. After all, the Republican won’t always be the majority party, and precedent-setting steps like …

    Trackback by QandO — Sunday, March 6, 2005 @ 1:58 pm

  11. The current state of democracy -representation and appointment- works very poorly. I think we should prepare ourselves for some sort of direct democracy. But I have another message to leave here which is a message of immortality and peace:

    Declaration of Heaven on Earth!

    Chant this prayer & we will have heaven on earth:

    Dearest, greatest, holiest!
    Please give us all, the full heaven on earth!
    I thank you, & I worship you.

    For more information, please visit !

    __ Bab-ul-Janna

    Comment by picture of zoroastrianism — Monday, March 13, 2006 @ 12:18 am

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