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Briefcase: The Changing Senate Filibuster

Guest Dean Leonard Baynes


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Although the Senate filibuster has been around for a couple of centuries, it has gone thru some significant changes in this decade alone. Dean Leonard Baynes with the University of Houston Law Center gives us a brief history of the filibuster in this week's episode.

"The filibuster was created by the Senate to allow extended debate on an issue, but it is often used as a tactic to prevent or postpone action on a bill,"

Dean Baynes explained. "The longest filibuster in Senate history happened when Strom Thurmond spoke for over 24 hours, to prevent voting on the Civil Rights Act of 1957. It takes 60 votes to invoke cloture, a 30-hour time limit on consideration of a bill that, effectively, ends debate."


"In 2013, the Senate adopted the ‘nuclear option,' requiring 51 votes – a simple majority – to stop debate on lower court nominations," Baynes continued. "Senate Democrats used it after 82 of President Obama's court nominees were blocked, compared to 86 under all other Presidents combined.

In 2017, Republicans eliminated the filibuster for Supreme Court nominations after the Democrats initially blocked confirmation of Neil Gorsuch. The filibuster still exists and can delay or block only legislation."