April 28th, 2009
02:55 PM ET
9 years ago

A look back at the last filibuster-proof majority in the Senate

WASHINGTON (CNN) – When was the last time there was a filibuster-proof majority in the U.S. Senate?

It was during the 95th Congress in 1977-1979, when Democrats controlled 62 seats.

The Senate's filibuster rule had just changed two years earlier in 1975, when the threshold was lowered from a two-thirds majority of senators present and voting to a flat 60 votes. At the time of the rule change, the Democratic caucus had 61 votes.

With the switch by Sen. Arlen Specter, Democrats still need one more vote to reach 60. Al Franken of Minnesota could be that 60th vote if he prevails in the drawn-out battle for the title of the state's junior senator. A three-judge panel in the state court recently ruled against Republican Norm Coleman in his post-election contest over the tight race, and Coleman recently announced that he is taking his case to the state supreme court.

Don Ritchie of the U.S. Senate Historical Office notes that the concept of party unity is much different now than it was in the 1970s. During the 95th Congress, even though Democrats held a filibuster-proof majority, straight party-line votes were very rare, and filibusters still occurred, comprised of coalitions between Democrats and Republicans. Ritchie notes that, at the time, cloture motions to end filibusters often were brought forth jointly by both the leadership of both parties.

Filed under: Senate
soundoff (30 Responses)
  1. Raymond

    Gosh – how could anything go wrong with democrats having a filibuster proof majority??

    April 28, 2009 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  2. George

    You cry baby republicans can't stand to lose. BOO HOO. Coleman give it up. You don;t have as much clout as Bush did. His daddy nominated his supreme court. Coleman you are a nobody!!!!
    Bye Bye now!!!!

    April 28, 2009 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  3. Mississippi Mike

    Remember how the economy tanked in the late seventies and early eighties? Expect it again folks. Democrats destroy the economy, the Republicans slowly build it back up and then the Democrats destroy it again. Why can't we just keep building on the free market instead of trying to socialize it as soon as we are on the right path?

    April 28, 2009 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  4. eric

    Okay America now you are going to get what you voted for. More pork, less military, no borders, and a weak country that is going to hell.

    April 28, 2009 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  5. Shannon

    Reps are reaping what they have sown.

    April 28, 2009 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  6. The Broker.

    Another: "Buster Crab," silent movie?

    April 28, 2009 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  7. RNC = DNC = politics as usual

    article "1970s. During the 95th Congress, even though Democrats held a filibuster-proof majority, straight party-line votes were very rare"

    2009: The RNC and DNC and Obama are all about partisan lock-step voting. How are we better off?

    Question Authority.

    April 28, 2009 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  8. JonDie

    What a filibuster-proof majority could do is allow a group of centrist Democrats to make common cause with the handful of Republicans who are not radical, right-wing extremist ideologue, i.e., instead of leading to a "My way or the highway" approach, it could lead to exactly what Americans want, leadership from the center.

    April 28, 2009 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  9. Rick CT

    And what was the result? Notice, that was not mentioned in this article.

    Ultimately, with Carter as President and a truly one-party Congress, we wound up with double-digit unemployment and double-digit inflation.

    Right now, we're rapidly on the way to double-digit unemployment. And without any checks and balances on the record spending spree, we could well see much higher inflation in the next couple of years.

    Well, at least it will be clear who'll be to blame. There's only one horse in town right now.

    April 28, 2009 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  10. KC

    ....and things went so well during that time. No Americans were taken hostage (oh wait they were), interest rates were wonderful (oh wait they weren't), jobs were plentiful (oh gosh wrong again). Yeah, this promises to be a scarey two years until people realize that they don't want this clueless group in power.

    April 28, 2009 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  11. Jeff from Atlanta

    A lot of comparisons between carter and obama and this just makes another one. High initial approval rating, filibuster proof congress, spending attitude, tax the rich and hard working and give to the poor and lazy.

    So many similarities.

    We all know how it turned out the first time. how true it is that if we don't learn from our mistakes we are destine to repeat them.

    Well, déjà vu all over again.

    April 28, 2009 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  12. Razorback

    Does anybody else remember those years? 12% inflation, 18% mortgages and "malaise". I guess the old saying is true-those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.

    April 28, 2009 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  13. Tom Bachman

    That Dem stranglehold gave us hostages in Tehran, 15% inflation and a total disaster of an economy. Yippee....I guess Obama will now give Israel to the Kingdom, just as Billy Carter's dumber brother handed Iran to Khomeini & his lunatics.

    April 28, 2009 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  14. Joe in NJ

    "It was during the 95th Congress in 1977-1979, when Democrats controlled 62 seats."

    And we all remember how "great" those years were.

    April 28, 2009 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  15. Joe

    Uh Mr. Yoon, you're actually wrong here. The cloture rule in 1975 did not change the rule to "a flat 60 votes." It changed it from two-thirds to three-fifths. The 60 votes comes from three-fifths of 100 total Senators. Right now there are only 59 Senators. If there was one less, for some reason, only 59 votes would be required for cloture.

    April 28, 2009 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  16. WIlly Brown

    Can't wait till the donkeys run us into the ground. To deomcrats; everyday is April 15th.

    April 28, 2009 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  17. Mark

    Bankruptcy now guaranteed!

    April 28, 2009 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  18. Baze

    Looks like Obama will have his Magic 60 after all. Too bad...

    April 28, 2009 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  19. Gary

    One party in charge of everything means trouble.

    April 28, 2009 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  20. Perry is anti-American

    "One party in charge of everything means trouble."

    Blame the Republicans they are the ones who drive everyone away with their "it's my way or the highway" attitude.

    April 28, 2009 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  21. pam Eugene OR

    CNN why are closing the comments so soon the the Specter switch? It is BIG news and bad the GOP. They are shunning anyone who is not a bible pounder, armed to the teeth, and anti gay. Oh, I forgot you have to also be pro life. Those are the rules to join their shrinking part of exclusion.
    They are self destructing right in front of everyone.According to Rush their base is about 20 million people. Good luck for national elections with that number. GOP is done. Stick a fork in them. They are toast.

    April 28, 2009 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  22. Ed

    Well, there goes the "checks and balances". Be interesting to see how the Democrats avoid the blame now. "Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely."

    April 28, 2009 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  23. jp,michigan

    King Obama now has all his ducks in a row.

    April 28, 2009 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  24. Joy

    The Republican party has become a soap opera. Time for the Dems to clean house and get America back on the right track again.

    April 28, 2009 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  25. Greg

    What difference does it make? Bush and Obama have been writing hot checks for sometime now, even without a clear majority! There are so many behind the scene deals brokered in government that the checks and balance system doesn't even resemble the letter of the Constitution anymore. The closest thing resembling checks and balance is the p***ing contest between Obama, Reid, and Pelosi to see who is the race horse and who is the flat rock.

    April 28, 2009 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
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