The graphs below break down cloture motions from the 86th Congress to the 113th. Because the “nuclear option” happened in the Senate today with respect to nominees, I decided to break down cloture motions specifically related to nominees.    For those of you caught up on history, some 60 Clinton-nominees were blocked, but they were blocked through other means than filibuster which is why they are not represented in these graphs. For those of you that do not know what cloture is, it is a parliamentary procedure to break debate to a quick end.
Back in the day, Congressmen were able to basically jabber on for as long as they wanted, as the House of Representatives grew, however, the rules were changed in that house to limit speech (each house may change its rules). The Senate, on the other hand, is much smaller, and therefore still allows for unlimited debate.
Interestingly, back in 1841, Henry Clay threatened to change Senate Rules to allow the majority to vote on closing debate. This was almost akin to political heresy. In any case, a civil war, a world war, and 3.2 million American lives lost, 1917 rolls around whereupon Woodrow Wilson nonviolently gets the Senate to adopt Rule 22, which is where cloture comes into play. Interestingly, the very first use of Rule 22 was to put an end to a filibuster against the Treaty of Versailles.
In any case, Southern Democrats used the filibuster to prevent legislation from passing relevant to segregation and equal rights – like the 60 day filibuster against the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In any case, we reach 1975 where the Senate reduces the two-thirds vote to a three-fifths vote to enact cloture – or 60 votes.
Now, we reach November 21st, 2013, whereupon the Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid enacted the “nuclear option” which isn’t all that nuclear, as it only pertains to executive branch nominations. 60 votes are still necessary for Supreme Court nominees, and this has no effect on filibusters relevant to legislation.