Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon has proposed filibuster limits that include requiring senators delaying legislation to talk continually about it on the Senate floor, much like the senator portrayed by the actor James Stewart did in the 1939 movie "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington."
That type of filibuster has been extremely rare for decades.
The use of filibusters by senators, usually those in the minority, is one of the key ways the chamber differs from the House, where the rules usually let the majority prevail unimpeded. Senators in the majority often complain about the minority's excessive use of filibusters, but are usually cautious about limiting the procedure because they know their own party can fall back into the minority after any election.
According to the Senate Historian's Office, the number of "cloture petitions" — a procedural step that sets up a vote to end a filibuster — was 68 in the two-year session of Congress running from 2005 to 2006, the last time Democrats were in the minority.
But that number has exceeded 100 for each of the past three two-year sessions, all of which have seen Republicans in the minority, peaking at 139 in the 2007-2008 session. There have been 109 in the current 2011-2012 session, with several more weeks of lame duck meetings expected.
Reid spokesman Adam Jentleson said that while Democrats are open to compromise, McConnell "has got to know that the American people on Tuesday completely rejected his entire approach to governing, obstruction and gridlock at every turn."
McConnell spokesman Stewart said Republicans already compromised in the informal 2011 agreement that Democrats broke.
"Doing hyperpartisan actions doesn't lead to partisan compromise," he said.
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