Everyone who has seen the movie “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” remembers the image of an exhausted Jimmy Stewart single-handedly defeating a bill that threatened the nation. This romantic version of political history is more myth than fact.
It was never the intent of the framers of the Constitution to bestow the Senate minority with that kind of stopping power. It was James Madison who strongly opposed the idea of requiring a supermajority to prevent legislation from being rushed to a vote without proper deliberation. For two decades, the Senate held to Madison’s view and ended debates with a simple majority. Read more →