Most bills need a simple majority
January 7, 2011 · Updated 1:30 PM
Yes, super majorities are a problem for the reasons you mention in your editorial of Jan. 1, but Congress needs a simple majority to pass bills, not a super-majority as you suggest. I think that you are confusing the filibuster-cloture issue with the number of votes required to pass a bill.
U.S. senators can talk as long as they want and that is called a filibuster. To stop the filibuster, 60 senators must vote for cloture of the debate. If 60 votes cannot be garnered, then the filibuster goes on or the Senate majority leader decides to move on with other legislation. The Southern Democrats used it to stop Civil Rights legislation from coming to a vote in the 1960s and now it is used by both parties from time to time.
Filibusters have been going on for almost 200 years. The House of Representatives can no longer use filibusters as there are too many members and the House members changed the rules to stop filibusters over 150 years ago. In the Senate, it used to take two-thirds majority for cloture but the Senate changed the rules in 1975 to require 60 votes for cloture. The Senate and the House make their own rules of operation. It is not a part of the Constitution. If the Senate wanted to stop the filibuster practice, they could do so but apparently both parties believe that it should stay in place as I know of no effort to change the rules.
To read the history, readers can simply put “Senate filibuster” in their browsers.