02/01/2013 05:06 pm ET Updated May 15, 2014

Sen. Jeff Merkley Breaks Down History Of Filibuster (VIDEO)

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) spent the last few months tirelessly advocating for an end to the silent filibuster. Ultimately, the filibuster reform deal reached in the Senate fell short of the progressive senator's expectations.

The filibuster's history is long and often contentious. Merkley discussed its origins Thursday with The Huffington Post's Ryan Grim.

Watch Merkley break down the filibuster above.

During the initial years of Congress, the House of Representatives and the Senate had nearly identical rules. As a result, representatives -- not just senators -- could filibuster. But as the size of the House increased, new revisions to the House rules placed a limit on debate. The Senate, which remained smaller in size, continued to have unlimited debate and granted senators the right to speak on the floor as long as necessary.

Use of the Senate filibuster dates back to 1837, though it was not until the 1850s that its popularity grew, and the filibuster was more commonly wielded in efforts to prevent a vote on a bill.

It took the insistence of President Woodrow Wilson in 1917 for the Senate to adopt the cloture rule, thereby enabling a two-thirds majority vote to end a debate. Two years later, the new rules were first utilized by the Senate to invoke cloture to end a filibuster against the Treaty of Versailles.

But acquiring two-thirds of a majority remained difficult, and senators were able to continue their use of the filibuster to effectively block legislation. It took almost 60 years for another rules change, when the 94th Congress reduced the number of votes required for cloture from two-thirds to three-fifths of a majority, or 60 senators, as it stands today.



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