April 28th, 2009
02:55 PM ET
14 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. Enlightened Voter

    The GOP remind me of ghetto minded thugs. You repubs didn't mind that from 2000 – 2006 the repugs had the majority in both houses and the presidency and look what happened, they destroyed this country and they used and lied to America and you people are still defending them. Wake up people, good GOD!

    April 28, 2009 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  2. The lonely Libertarian of Liverpool NY

    Visions of Jimmy Carter II those 62 votes did nothing for Jimmy, and this recession is the reincarnation of Howard Beale.

    April 28, 2009 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  3. Anonymous

    I'm moving to Denmark!

    April 28, 2009 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  4. awaitingliberalizationbyCNN

    Oh the good old days of Jimmy Carter. The destruction of the CIA, fuel crisis, Iranians hold hostages. Let's not forget Dan Rostenkowski, Teddy Kennedy (didn't he kill somebody around that time), Frank Church, Wilbur Mills, the House banking scandal. Let the good times roll.

    April 28, 2009 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  5. joe

    Hey Gary you're right one power means trouble> However it was OK for the republicans to control it all for dumb ass "W" to get us in 2 wars, approve torture, Blackwater in Irag, remember $ 4 a gallon gas for the Texas Oilmen with no one questioning. Oh yeah and Bush is the one that started the first $ 700 BILLION bailout with the banks and AIG in September knowing he and the party wouldn't have to deal with screw up since no republican was going to win the White House after him.

    April 28, 2009 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
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