Over the past year, Senate Republicans threatened to filibuster legislation more than at any time in our nations history. They have threatened and blustered. And Senate Democrats have backed down. The result is that Democrats now need 60 votes to pass a bill instead of the 51 actually required by Senate rules.
Given that Democrats now number 59 in the Senate, and given that no Republicans have been willing to break ranks and vote for a Democrat-sponsored bill, what now?
To see the way to the future, Democrats simply need to look to the past.
You see, the reason the filibuster was seldom threatened in past decades is that the proponents of a bill were willing to call the obstructionists bluff. The mere threat of a filibuster was not good enough. If you threatened to filibuster, you actually had to do it. That meant speaking around the clock to prevent the legislation from moving forward. The filibustering party would move beds into the Senate chamber and prepare for a long, embarrassing ordeal. They would be forced to stand at the Senate lectern for days on end. If they tired and stopped, the filibuster ended.
The sight of Senators babbling for hours on end reading the Bible, the phone book and everything else at hand was great theater. But it seldom worked. A filibuster might last for days, but the obstructionists would eventually tire and the bill would proceed to a vote. In addition, the filibustering Senators often were punished by the voting public in the next election.
There was no need to seek compromise. No need to back down. The question is, why dont Democrats force the filibuster? They have the majority. Its time to rule.