“ And there took place . . . [in the U.S. Senate] so many “extended discussions” of measures to keep them from coming to a vote that the device got a name, “filibuster,” from the Dutch word vrijbuiter, which means “freebooter” or “pirate,” and which passed into the Spanish as filibustero, because the sleek, swift ship used by Caribbean pirates was called a filibote, and into legislative parlance because the device was, after all, a pirating, or hi*******, of the very heart of the legislative process. ...”
Reid proposes only to modify but not eliminate filibusters of the type memorialized by Jimmy Stewart in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, where a steadfast minority of senators speak from the well and address the "World's Greatest Deliberative Body" without respite. Majority Leader Reid would merely reverse the more recent relaxation of the filibuster that allows a senator to express the intention to filibuster, thereby requiring a 60-vote majority to invoke cloture (a call to vote on a pending bill). Reid would make changes that -- as Washington Post reporter, Ezra Klein, notes -- are "not dramatic":
[Sen. Reid] wants to be able to make the motion to debate a bill -- but not the vote to pass it -- immune to the filibuster; he wants the time it would take to break a filibuster to be shorter; and he wants whoever is filibustering to have to hold the floor of the Senate and talk.
Klein also suggests:
None of these changes would alter the basic reality of the modern U.S. Senate, which is that it takes 60 votes to get almost anything done. In my view, that means they wouldn’t do much to fix the Senate at all. (Emphasis in original.)
His assessment is too pessimistic. With just a bit more tweaking of the filibuster, say, by ending debate on a vote of 57 senators, gridlock would be reduced. Furthermore, with such a change, the sway of the swing vote -- just as in the Supreme Court where Justice Anthony Kennedy carries great clout -- would minimize polarization. It would also promote greater compromise and empower moderates of the minority party and independents.