Matthew Yglesias: [T]he perception is... widespread that constant filibustering is a longstanding tradition. I used to think that was the case.... But surely lots of people remember the Carter and Reagan administrations? As UCLA political scientist Barbara Sinclair tells Ezra Klein....
[I]t really has a big impact from the first Clinton Congress on. If one can say there’s a break point, that’s where filibusters become a regularly used partisan tool.... [N]ow it’s much more a tool of the minority party. And the minority party is organized and relatively large, even when it’s small by our standards. Forty Republicans is as small as it’s been in a long, long time. That still means if you really get the minority to hang together, everyone on the other side becomes key.
Was anyone really sitting around in 1990 or so and saying to themselves “the big problem with the American government is that if you have majority support for something in the House and the Senate and the relevant Congressional committees and the President supports it and it passes muster with the Supreme Court, then that thing just might get done?” If they were, shifting to a 60-vote threshold for Senate action solves the problem. But what could the problem have possibly been?
The "perceived problem" was that Bill Clinton and gotten elected with 43% of the vote. The Republican response was: this guy is an illegitimate president. Let's block everything he does because he shouldn't be sitting in that chair. And in 1994 they concluded that it had worked--they won their congressional majorities.
So now they are trying to do it again.