Well, This Is Certainly a Surprise!
Matthew Yglesias Asks a Question

Ezra Klein's Filibuster Links

Ezra writes:

After health care, we need Senate reform: On Dec. 8, 1964, Mike Manatos wrote a letter that explains what's wrong with the Senate in 2009. This wasn't, of course, the subject of his letter.... Manatos counted a solid majority in favor of the president's effort. "If all our supporters are present and voting we would win by a vote of 55 to 45," he predicted. That letter would never be written now. In today's Senate, 55 votes isn't enough to "win," or anything close to it; it's enough to get you five votes away from the 60 votes you need to shut down a filibuster. Only then, in most cases, can a law be passed. The modern Senate is a radically different institution than the Senate of the 1960s, and the dysfunction exhibited in its debate over health care -- the absence of bipartisanship, the use of the filibuster to obstruct progress rather than protect debate, the ability of any given senator to hold the bill hostage to his or her demands -- has convinced many, both inside and outside the chamber, that it needs to be fixed....

[T]he Senate passed a $900 billion health-care bill Thursday morning. But consider the context.... This was a test of whether a party could govern when everything was stacked in its favor. The answer seems to be, well, not really. The Democrats ended up focusing on health-care reform's low-hanging fruit.... Democrats still could not find a single Republican vote, which meant they had to give Nebraska a coupon entitling it to a free Medicaid expansion and hand Joe Lieberman a voucher that's good for anything he wants. If the Senate cannot govern effectively even when history conspires to free its hand, then it cannot govern.

To understand why the modern legislative process is so bad... you need to understand one basic fact: The government can function if the minority party has either the incentive to make the majority fail or the power to make the majority fail. It cannot function if it has both. In decades past, the parties did not feel they had both.... But in the 1990s, Newt Gingrich, then the minority whip of the House, and Bob Dole, then the minority leader of the Senate, realized they did have both. A strategy of relentless obstruction brought then-president Bill Clinton to his knees, as the minority party discovered it had the tools to make the majority party fail. Unfortunately, both parties have followed Gingrich's playbook ever since... 8 percent of major bills faced a filibuster in the 1960s. This decade, that jumped to 70 percent. The problem with the minority party continually making the majority party fail, of course, is that it means neither party can ever successfully govern the country...

And see