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Expand chart
Data: RepresentUs analysis; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios. Note: Some states have multiple ways to break filibusters. For states with rules on filibuster-breaking votes, some require a certain share of senators to be present and others require a certain share to vote.

The vast majority of state Senates have rules making it harder to filibuster legislation than in the U.S. Senate, according to new research from the nonpartisan advocacy group RepresentUs.

Why it matters: This comes as Senate Republicans threaten to filibuster raising the debt ceiling, calling on Democrats to do it alone. Requiring 60 votes to close debate on a particular legislative topic has been a major factor of partisan gridlock in Congress — especially in the current 50-50 Senate.

  • "Not only are Republicans refusing to do their job, but they're threatening to use their power to prevent us from doing our job — saving the economy from a catastrophic event," President Biden said Monday. "I think, quite frankly, it's hypocritical, dangerous and disgraceful."

By the numbers: Lawmakers in 43 states have an easier time breaking a filibuster than members of the U.S. Senate, according to the analysis of state laws and rules.

  • Four states that have high vote requirements to end a filibuster also have pre-set time limits on speaking time, which the U.S. Senate lacks. Many states require only a majority to end debate.
  • Seven state Senates have rules similar to the U.S. Senate’s cloture rule. They don't have time limits and require a high share of senators to set limits or end debate. Four of those do not have any specified rules for ending debate at all.

"Rules matter, but they're not the only thing that determines the filibuster," Caroline Joseph, RepresentUs research analyst, told Axios.

  • States with the most similar rules to the U.S. Senate do not have significant problems with the lawmakers filibustering.
  • On the other hand, Missouri only requires a majority to end debate — but has some of the most frequent filibusters of any state.

Editor's note: This article has been updated to reflect that four states with high vote requirements to end a filibuster have pre-set time limits on speaking time — not four states overall.

Go deeper

Jan 12, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Schumer finds loophole to advance elections reform package

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Democratic leaders have found a mechanism to enable them to bypass an initial Republican filibuster and debate the party's sweeping election reform bills, according to a new leadership memo obtained by Axios.

Why it matters: The strategy is the latest example of how Democrats are seeking new ways to try to bypass Senate procedures that are blocking their agenda. But the ultimate outcome will likely be the same: insufficient support to change the 60-vote threshold needed to pass sweeping voting rights reforms.

Updated Jan 11, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Biden backs filibuster changes to pass voting rights bill

Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

President Biden on Tuesday threw his support behind changing the Senate's filibuster rules in an effort to pass voting rights legislation.

Driving the news: "I believe the threat to our democracy is so grave that we must find a way to pass the voting rights bill, debate them, vote, let the majority prevail," Biden said in a major speech in Atlanta. "And if that bare minimum is blocked, we have no option but to change the Senate rule, including getting rid of the filibuster for this."

House Democrats to combine 2 key bills in push for voting rights

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi during a December news conference in Washington, D.C. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Speaker Nancy Pelosi told Democrats the House Rules Committee was meeting Wednesday night to combine key provisions of two voting bills and pass the rule before sending it to the Senate for a vote.

Why it matters: Pelosi's announcement in a letter to Democrats comes a day after President Biden called for a change to the Senate's filibuster rules in an effort to pass voting rights legislation.