A filibuster is any legislative tactic meant to prolong debate and delay or block a vote on a bill. In recent years, the filibuster has been a major reason for gridlock in the U.S. Senate.

We did some digging into state filibuster rules, and found that the U.S. Senate filibuster is uniquely dysfunctional. It requires more effort to delay legislation with a filibuster in 43 states than it does in the U.S. Senate. Of the seven states that have comparable rules, none has the history of delay and gridlock that has come to define the Senate.

There are many ways the Senate filibuster can be changed. As senators consider filibuster reforms to pass the Freedom to Vote Act and reduce gridlock, they should look to the states as examples. Click on your state to see how its filibuster rules compare.

* Last updated 9/8/2021


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State

Harder to filibuster than U.S. Senate?

Votes required to break filibuster

U.S. Senate

Harder to filibuster than U.S. Senate?

Votes required to break filibuster

3/5 of senators elected, no pre-set time limits

Alabama

Harder to filibuster than U.S. Senate?

Alabama requires 3/5 of senators elected to approve a limit for debate. The Rules Committee or 21/35 senators may petition for this vote. The vote threshold to pass this for redistricting or appropriation measures is only 18 votes (majority elected). Unlike the U.S. Senate, Alabama has time limits on speaking time, requiring more effort to execute a filibuster.

Votes required to break filibuster

Same vote threshold but pre-set time limits

Alaska

Harder to filibuster than U.S. Senate?

Alaska has multiple rules to limit or end debate. To successfully pass a motion for the previous question, 2/3 of senators present are required. No vote threshold is specified on the Alaska Senate’s motion to limit debate, but the body rules reference Mason’s Manual for the implementation of cases not covered by the rules, implying that only a simple majority may be needed.

Votes required to break filibuster

Multiple rules to break a filibuster

Arizona

Harder to filibuster than U.S. Senate?

The exact vote threshold required to pass a motion to limit debate is unspecified. However, Arizona’s rules reference the Mason’s Manual’s role in determining procedure unspecified in the rules, which would set it at a simple majority.

Votes required to break filibuster

Easier vote compared to U.S. Senate

Arkansas

Harder to filibuster than U.S. Senate?

Although Arkansas has a high vote threshold to end the filibuster (24/35 senators to pass a motion for the previous question), it also sets time limits for speaking, which the U.S. Senate does not.

Votes required to break filibuster

Similar vote to U.S. Senate but pre-set time limits

California

Harder to filibuster than U.S. Senate?

A majority of senators are needed to pass a motion for the previous question.

Votes required to break filibuster

Easier vote compared to U.S. Senate

Colorado

Harder to filibuster than U.S. Senate?

Limiting debate in the Colorado Senate requires the support of a majority of senators elected.

Votes required to break filibuster

Easier vote compared to U.S. Senate

Connecticut

Harder to filibuster than U.S. Senate?

Connecticut allows both motions for the previous question and motions to close debate at a specified time. The vote threshold is unspecified, but Connecticut’s rules reference Mason’s Manual, which applies when not inconsistent with the rules and would set limits at a simple majority.

Votes required to break filibuster

Easier vote compared to U.S. Senate

Delaware

Harder to filibuster than U.S. Senate?

Neither a motion to close or limit debate are in order during debate

Votes required to break filibuster

n/a

Florida

Harder to filibuster than U.S. Senate?

2/3 senators present are required to pass a motion to limit debate. However, Florida also has pre-set time limits for how long a senator can speak before yielding the floor, making a filibuster harder to execute than in the U.S. Senate.

Votes required to break filibuster

Similar vote to U.S. Senate but pre-set time limits

Georgia

Harder to filibuster than U.S. Senate?

A majority of senators voting is required to both pass a motion for the previous question and a motion to resolve debate.

Votes required to break filibuster

Easier vote compared to U.S. Senate

Hawaii

Harder to filibuster than U.S. Senate?

3/5 vote in favor is needed to pass a motion for the previous question. Like the U.S. Senate, the Hawaii Senate has no pre-set limits on debate.

Votes required to break filibuster

Similar vote to U.S. Senate and no pre-set time limits

Idaho

Harder to filibuster than U.S. Senate?

In addition to having a high vote threshold (2/3 majority voting for both the previous question and the motion to limit debate), Idaho has no pre-set time limits on debate.

Votes required to break filibuster

Similar vote to U.S. Senate, no pre-set time limits

Illinois

Harder to filibuster than U.S. Senate?

A majority of senators elected are necessary to pass a motion for the previous question.

Votes required to break filibuster

Easier vote compared to U.S. Senate

Indiana

Harder to filibuster than U.S. Senate?

A majority of senators elected are necessary to pass a motion for the previous question.

Votes required to break filibuster

Easier vote compared to U.S. Senate

Iowa

Harder to filibuster than U.S. Senate?

A majority of senators present and voting are necessary to pass a motion for the previous question.

Votes required to break filibuster

Easier vote compared to U.S. Senate

Kansas

Harder to filibuster than U.S. Senate?

A majority vote of senators present is needed to pass a motion for the previous question. 10 senators must sponsor the motion.

Votes required to break filibuster

Easier vote compared to U.S. Senate

Kentucky

Harder to filibuster than U.S. Senate?

A majority of senators elected are necessary to pass a motion for the previous question. A motion to limit debate is also in order, though no vote threshold is specified.

Votes required to break filibuster

Easier vote compared to U.S. Senate

Louisiana

Harder to filibuster than U.S. Senate?

Louisiana has multiple rules to break a filibuster. A majority Senators present and voting can pass a motion for the previous question or non-interruptive motion to limit debate. On the other hand, 2/3 elected senators (26 Senators) are required as signatories for a motion to limit debate while another senator is speaking. The same number must vote in favor for it to pass.

Votes required to break filibuster

Multiple rules to break a filibuster

Maine

Harder to filibuster than U.S. Senate?

Neither a motion to close or limit debate are in order during debate in Maine.

Votes required to break filibuster

n/a

Maryland

Harder to filibuster than U.S. Senate?

3/5 senators elected must approve a motion to limit debate. Although senators can only speak once until everyone who desires to has spoken, there are no pre-set time limits on debate.

Votes required to break filibuster

Similar vote to U.S. Senate, no pre-set time limits

Massachusetts

Harder to filibuster than U.S. Senate?

Theoretically, the motion to close debate at a specified time would require a majority of senators present to pass.

Votes required to break filibuster

Easier vote compared to U.S. Senate

Michigan

Harder to filibuster than U.S. Senate?

A majority of senators voting are necessary to pass a motion for the previous question.

Votes required to break filibuster

Easier vote compared to U.S. Senate

Minnesota

Harder to filibuster than U.S. Senate?

A majority of senators present are necessary to pass a motion for the previous question.

Votes required to break filibuster

Easier vote compared to U.S. Senate

Mississippi

Harder to filibuster than U.S. Senate?

A majority of senators present and voting are necessary to pass a previous motion or a motion to limit debate. The vote thresholds are unspecified, but a separate rule in the Mississippi Senate rules sets unspecified vote thresholds at a majority present and voting.

Votes required to break filibuster

Easier vote compared to U.S. Senate

Missouri

Harder to filibuster than U.S. Senate?

A majority of senators elected are necessary to pass a motion for the previous question. The motion must be submitted through a written demand signed by five senators.

Votes required to break filibuster

Easier vote compared to U.S. Senate

Montana

Harder to filibuster than U.S. Senate?

Montana’s rules reference Mason’s Manual, which governs proceedings unspecified in the rules. It would set limits at a simple majority.

Votes required to break filibuster

Easier vote compared to U.S. Senate

Nebraska

Harder to filibuster than U.S. Senate?

Nebraska has multiple vote thresholds to break a filibuster: A majority of senators elected is required for previous question, and 2/3 of senators present is required for cloture. Only certain senators can move for cloture, and five senators must demand the previous question.

Votes required to break filibuster

Multiple rules to break a filibuster

Nevada

Harder to filibuster than U.S. Senate?

A majority of senators present are needed to pass a motion for the previous question. Three senators must demand the motion.

Votes required to break filibuster

Easier vote compared to U.S. Senate

New Hampshire

Harder to filibuster than U.S. Senate?

A majority of senators present are needed to pass a motion for the previous question.

Votes required to break filibuster

Easier vote compared to U.S. Senate

New Jersey

Harder to filibuster than U.S. Senate?

A majority of senators voting are needed to pass a motion for the previous question.

Votes required to break filibuster

Easier vote compared to U.S. Senate

New Mexico

Harder to filibuster than U.S. Senate?

A majority of senators present are needed to pass a motion to close debate or a motion for the previous question.

Votes required to break filibuster

Easier vote compared to U.S. Senate

New York

Harder to filibuster than U.S. Senate?

A majority of senators are necessary to pass a motion for the previous question. Only a certain senators can order the motion.

Votes required to break filibuster

Easier vote compared to U.S. Senate

North Carolina

Harder to filibuster than U.S. Senate?

A majority of senators present are needed to pass a motion for the previous question. Only a certain senators can order the motion.

Votes required to break filibuster

Easier vote compared to U.S. Senate

North Dakota

Harder to filibuster than U.S. Senate?

Threshold to limit debate is unclear, but Mason’s Manual governs the Senate in all situations unspecified in the rules. Accordingly, a majority of senators present would be needed to pass a motion for the previous question or a motion to close debate.

Votes required to break filibuster

Easier vote compared to U.S. Senate

Ohio

Harder to filibuster than U.S. Senate?

A majority vote of the senate is needed to pass a motion for the previous question. It must be demanded by three senators.

Votes required to break filibuster

Easier vote compared to U.S. Senate

Oklahoma

Harder to filibuster than U.S. Senate?

A majority present and voting are necessary to pass a motion to limit debate (unless it fails on its first pass; then it needs 2/3 majority voting).

Votes required to break filibuster

Multiple rules to break a filibuster

Oregon

Harder to filibuster than U.S. Senate?

A majority present is needed to pass a motion for the previous question.

Votes required to break filibuster

Easier vote compared to U.S. Senate

Pennsylvania

Harder to filibuster than U.S. Senate?

A majority voting is needed to pass a motion for the previous question. A motion to limit or close debate is also in order.

Votes required to break filibuster

Easier vote compared to U.S. Senate

Rhode Island

Harder to filibuster than U.S. Senate?

A majority of senators voting is necessary to pass a motion for a previous question, close debate, or fix a time for closing debate.

Votes required to break filibuster

Easier vote compared to U.S. Senate

South Carolina

Harder to filibuster than U.S. Senate?

26/46 senators elected or 3/5 senators present, whichever is lower, are needed to close debate and fix a certain time to vote on third reading (the final vote to pass the bill or resolution).

Votes required to break filibuster

Easier vote compared to U.S. Senate

South Dakota

Harder to filibuster than U.S. Senate?

A majority of senators present is needed to pass a motion for the previous question.

Votes required to break filibuster

Easier vote compared to U.S. Senate

Tennessee

Harder to filibuster than U.S. Senate?

2/3 of senators present and voting are necessary to pass a motion for the previous question. Although the Tennessee Senate has a high vote threshold to break a filibuster, it has pre-set limits on debate, unlike the U.S. Senate.

Votes required to break filibuster

Similar vote to U.S. Senate but pre-set time limits

Texas

Harder to filibuster than U.S. Senate?

A majority of senators present and voting are necessary to pass a motion for the previous question.

Votes required to break filibuster

Easier vote compared to U.S. Senate

Utah

Harder to filibuster than U.S. Senate?

Motions for the previous question are explicitly outlawed, and motions to limit debate are not listed as in order during debate

Votes required to break filibuster

n/a

Vermont

Harder to filibuster than U.S. Senate?

Motions for the previous question are explicitly outlawed, and motions to limit debate are not listed as in order when the question is pending

Votes required to break filibuster

n/a

Virginia

Harder to filibuster than U.S. Senate?

A majority of senators present are necessary to passing motions for the previous question and motions for the pending question.

Votes required to break filibuster

Easier vote compared to U.S. Senate

Washington

Harder to filibuster than U.S. Senate?

A majority of senators present are necessary to pass a motion for the previous question.

Votes required to break filibuster

Easier vote compared to U.S. Senate

West Virginia

Harder to filibuster than U.S. Senate?

A majority of senators present are necessary to pass a motion for the previous question.

Votes required to break filibuster

Easier vote compared to U.S. Senate

Wisconsin

Harder to filibuster than U.S. Senate?

A motion for the previous question may pass if carried by a majority. A motion for the previous question can also be amended to become a motion to limit debate.

Votes required to break filibuster

Easier vote compared to U.S. Senate

Wyoming

Harder to filibuster than U.S. Senate?

A motion for the previous question is in order, but the threshold is unspecified. Wyoming’s rules reference Mason’s Manual, which would govern in all cases not specified in the rules. This would set limits at a simple majority. The motion must be seconded by three other members.

Votes required to break filibuster

Easier vote compared to U.S. Senate

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