Speed Reads


The rise of the filibuster, in one maddening chart

The rise of the filibuster, in one maddening chart

Senate Republicans on Wednesday blocked a vote on a bill that would raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 per hour. Blame the filibuster, which has in the past four decades become an increasingly popular tool for the minority party to stonewall legislation that could otherwise pass the upper chamber with a simple majority.

The following chart shows the number of cloture motions in each session of Congress since 1917, using data from the Senate's website. Technically, the tallies don't represent true talking filibusters, but rather all instances where someone called for a procedural vote to end potentially endless debate and hold a pass/fail vote on legislation.

Use of the filibuster leveled off in the 1990s, then exploded in the final few years of George W. Bush's presidency when Democrats regained control of the Senate. And following Obama's election, Republicans kept right on filibustering again and again and again.

Counting the latest cloture attempt on the minimum wage bill, there have been 128 such motions already this session, a hair less than the record 139 filed in 2007-08 — and that's with about nine months left to go on the legislative calendar.