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Republicans Setting Filibuster Record

STEVEN R. HURST | 03/ 1/10 02:03 PM | AP

WASHINGTON — The filibuster – tool of obstruction in the U.S. Senate – is alternately blamed and praised for wilting President Barack Obama’s ambitious agenda. Some even say it’s made the nation ungovernable.

Maybe, maybe not. Obama’s term still has three years to run.

More certain, however: Opposition Republicans are using the delaying tactic at a record-setting pace.

“The numbers are astonishing in this Congress,” says Jim Riddlesperger, political science professor at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth.

The filibuster, using seemingly endless debate to block legislative action, has become entrenched like a dandelion tap root in the midst of the shrill partisanship gripping Washington.

But the filibuster is nothing new. Its use dates to the mists of Senate history, but until the civil rights era, it was rarely used.

A tactic unique to the Senate, the filibuster means a simple majority guarantees nothing when it comes to passing laws.

“The rules of the Senate are designed to give muscle to the minority,” said Senate historian Donald Ritchie.

With the Senate now made up of 100 members, two for each of the 50 states, an opposition filibuster can only be broken with 60 votes – a three-fifths majority.

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