Freezing by filibuster

Why can the Senate not function without a 60-member majority?

In 1917, President Woodrow Wilson railed that the âÄúSenate of the United States is the only legislative body in the world which cannot act when its majority is ready for action.âÄù With last weekâÄôs election upset of the DemocratsâÄô filibuster-proof Senate majority, President Barack Obama might make the same complaint. The filibuster, much like the Electoral College, is an arcane and antiquated throwback to a bygone political reality. And, like the Electoral College, the filibuster looms large as an obstruction to effective democracy in the present day. The filibuster rule âÄî which is not law âÄî allows debate to continue indefinitely in the Senate without a 60-vote majority opposition; if misused, it effectively replaces the 51-vote âÄúsimple majorityâÄù required to pass legislation. The practice used to be rare, but for nearly two decades it has been exploited almost constantly by both major parties as a means of exerting disproportionate power while in the minority. Now, a new generation of voters âÄî and the senators they elect âÄî take it for granted, and now no major legislation can pass without a 60-vote majority to disarm the mere threat of a filibuster; minority senators end up playing obstruction games at the expense of legislative progress. The filibuster, like the partisanship which preceded it, has become yet another symbol of the dysfunctional American politics. Perhaps worse, it presents a classic catch-22: Though both major parties have reason to see the filibuster abolished in the long term, neither has courage to give it up in the short term. Meanwhile, the American people, from left to right, must suffer the grave consequences of legislative impotence.