Is the Filibuster Unconstitutional?

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Common Cause filed suit last week asking the Supreme Court to declare the filibuster unconstitutional.

The Washington Post‘s Ezra Klein plotted the history of the filibuster in a timeline (closer look) that graphs the growth in its usage since it became possible by a mistake made in 1806. According to political scientist Sarah Binder, the story is that shortly after his famous duel with Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr returned to the Senate and told them that their rule book was a mess and that they should clean it up.

One of the practices that got cut was something called the “previous question” motion. According to Klein, “[t]hat was the motion senators used to end debate on whatever they were talking about and move to the next topic. Burr recommended axing it because it was hardly ever used. Senators were gentlemen. They knew when to stop talking.”

View the graph after the jump.

filibuster history timeline

The Washington Post, Wonkbook Blog (Graph: Todd Lindeman; Data:

It appears senators stopped being “gentlemen” about 25 years ago. Read more »

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