“Today, in the age of instant news and Internet and rapid travel — you can get from anywhere to here within a day or a few hours — the initial reasons for the filibuster kind of fall by the wayside, and now it’s got into an abusive situation,” Harkin said.
He and the constitutional scholars agree that the intention was never to hold up legislation entirely.
To keep the spirit of slowing down legislation, though, Harkin’s proposal back in 1995 would have kept the 60-vote rule for the first vote but lessening the number required in subsequent votes.
He said for instance if 60 senators could not agree to end debate, it would carry on for another week or so and then the number of votes required to end debate would drop by three. Harkin said it would carry on this way until it reached a simple majority of 51 votes.
Unless the filibuster is modified, we are probably headed for 6+ years of a vocal Republican minority in the Senate bringing all federal business to a halt. I don’t think it’s unlikely that this becomes an entirely new model of action for conservatives — it goes hand-in-hand with the teabag movement. No one realistically believes that anything Republicans are doing now — firing up their dying white base with misinformation, sucking up to crackpots who frighten most voters — is likely to give them a majority anywhere at the federal level anytime soon (if the economy is bad enough, they make get one somewhere anyway). But their strategy is one that makes it easy to maintain a disciplined voting block (step out of line and the Fox goon squad comes after you), which is all you need to gum up the works in the age of the filibuster.