Michael Rappaport

It's fascinating to listen to people talk about the filibuster rule in the U.S. Senate. Democrats now are saying the same thing Republicans were five or six years ago.

It's all about who's in the majority.

It seems to be totally a question of whose Al is Gored.

When George W. Bush was president and Republicans controlled the Senate, Democrats used the filibuster to delay the appointment of federal judges they considered too conservative.

Now that Barack Obama is president and Democrats control the Senate, Republicans are using it whenever they can to block the passage of laws they consider too liberal.

Non-biased enough for you?

The practice of "filibustering" means refusing to end debate so that a vote can be taken, and it was basically an unwritten rule in the Senate for most of the 19th Century.

The idea was to make sure everyone got a chance to speak their piece, and indeed, the understanding at that time was that if senators were using debate to block -- rather than just to delay -- a vote, it could be ended by a simple majority.

It wasn't until 1917 when the two-thirds requirement -- 64 votes at that time, 67 once there were 50 states -- was started. Most uses of the filibuster in the 20th century were by Southern Democrats to block votes on Civil Rights legislation.

The difference between then and now was that those wishing to filibuster a bill or an appointment were actually required to hold the floor by talking. Since 1975, when the total required to close debate was changed to 60, all the minority has to do is announce that it is filibustering and a vote is blocked until a supermajority of 60 votes to end debate.

Indeed, Republicans in the Senate have used the filibuster 100 times in the last year, the most in history.

So here's the question:

This rule has nothing to do with the Founding Fathers, or the Constitution, or original intent. So why is it that we are now de facto requiring a supermajority of 60 to pass bills?

I'm not looking at this from a liberal or conservative point of view. I actually like Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and his idea for requiring 60 votes, then three days later requiring 57, then three days later requiring 55 and so on.

It leaves plenty of time for debate and then the majority rules.

I think we could take all the politics of the moment out of it by passing this rules change to take effect on January 20, 2017. By that time, even if Obama is re-elected he will leave office, and every member of the House and Senate will have had to be re-elected -- or elected -- at least once.

Supermajorities don't work.

California has proved that with its two-thirds vote required to pass budgets; the state is virtually ungovernable because of the gridlock engendered by that rule.

Time to wake up and smell the 21st century.

Time to end the filibuster.