On Aug. 29, Democratic (he later changed parties a couple of times) Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina ended the longest filibuster in U.S. Senate history, 24 hours and 18 minutes of protest against a Civil Rights law proposed by the Eisenhower Administration.
Back then, to filibuster, a Senator had to remain on his feet, speaking, without bathroom breaks or any other comforts. While the rule allowed for delay of bills, the physical requirements of the rules limited the use of filibusters, as well as their duration.
Today, those rules have been watered down, and to “filibuster” a debate requires nothing more announcing their intention, and things stop unless there are 60 votes to proceed.
Sixty votes is a supermajority (a majority is 50% of the votes, plus one) in the U.S. Senate. An important part of the U.S. Constitution requires supermajorities of one kind or another. This is one reason we tend to refer to the U.S. as a republic, rather than a simple democracy. The Founding Fathers wanted to create roadblocks to hasty legislation, and therefore made passing new laws a complicated process.
- Do you think it should be easier to pass laws?
- Should we make other changes (such as eliminating the equal number of senators per state, regardless of the size of the state, or getting rid of the Electoral College)?
- What would be the dangers of such changes?
22nd, Aug. 2018, Strom Thurmond 1957 [Digital photograph]. Retrieved from <google.com>.