Cloture and filibusters in the U.S. Congress

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In the Senate, a filibuster is an attempt to extend debate on a proposal in order to delay or completely prevent a vote on its passage. The term first came into use the Senate, where rules permit a senator or a series of senators to speak for as long as they wish and on any topic they choose, unless a supermajority group of 60% of senators brings debate to a close by invoking cloture. Filibustering, for many years, was the primary tactic by which southern senators were able to block civil rights and anti-lynching legislation from coming to the floor. More recently, the filibuster received attention when the Republican-controlled 109th Congress threatened to end it in an attempt to stop Democrats from blocking President Bush’s judicial nominations.[1][2][3]


110th Congress (2007-2008)

Following the 2006 congressional elections, Democrats held a 51-49 Senate majority in the 110th Congress. The Republican minority used the filibuster frequently in the first month of the session.

Legislative Transparency and Accountability Act

On January 17, an attempt to change ethics laws and rules failed after forty-five Republicans blocked it from coming to the floor for a vote. Several days later, the measure passed 96-2 after Senate leaders were able to compromise on their differences.[4]

Raising the minimum wage

On January 23, forty-three Republicans blocked an attempt to raise the federal minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25 over two-years.[5]

January 24, 2007
Failed, 54-43, view details
Dem: 47-0 in favor, GOP: 5-43 opposed, Ind: 2-0

Several days later, the increase was passed 94-3 after several amendments allowing for small business tax breaks were added to the bill.

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