By Jonathan Bernstein
The key to understanding last week's Senate rules reforms lies in remembering that there have been two different kinds of obstruction in recent years.
One issue is that majorities of up to 59 senators can be flat-out defeated. Because it takes 60 votes to end debate, it is, simply put, a 60-vote Senate. The deal Senate leaders reached Thursday does nothing about that.
But there is another kind of obstruction. Even when there are 60 votes - sometimes, even when there are 70, 80, or more - individual senators and small groups have had many tools for stalling. Because Senate floor time is scarce, those delays have raised the cost of bringing up even overwhelmingly popular items. And because time spent on each item reduces the time remaining for the rest, reducing the Senate's capacity for business overall, the minority has taken to delaying even measures with support from both sides.