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.