Yesterday, the Senate voted to change the rule on filibusters, which the minority party can use to block votes from happening. The use of the filibuster by the Republican minority finally spurred Senate Democrats to use what they had been calling the “nuclear option” — voting the filibuster out of existence (supporters of filibuster reform have long called it the “Constitutional option”). ”The now-defunct rule, a symbol of Washington gridlock, has survived dozens of attacks over the years largely because both major political parties like to use it,” Reuters writes.
But in the chart below, you can see the spike in the number of cloture votes (which, if they pass by a three-fifths vote, end a filibuster) since President Obama was elected.
While this will be a fundamental change in the way the Senate works, the rule change did not completely get rid of the filibuster. The procedural hurdle, which requires 60 votes to overturn, can no longer be used used to block judicial and executive branch nominees, but it is still an option for Supreme Court nominees and normal legislation.
Reuters explains more about how the new rules are expected to speed up Democratic appointments:
The change will speed up the confirmation of Obama appointments to the courts as well as to cabinet and regulatory agencies.
One beneficiary is likely to be Representative Mel Watt, whose nomination to take over the agency that regulates mortgage finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac was being blocked by Republicans.
But the immediate spark was Democratic frustration at Republican use of the filibuster to block Obama’s appointments to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, considered the nation’s second most important court after the U.S. Supreme Court.