GOP OBSTRUCTIONISM REACHES ‘ASTONISHING’ LEVEL…. For Americans who wonder why it seems like nothing gets done in Washington, the answer couldn’t be more obvious.

The frequency of filibusters — plus threats to use them — are measured by the number of times the upper chamber votes on cloture. Such votes test the majority’s ability to hold together 60 members to break a filibuster.

Last year, the first of the 111th Congress, there were a record 112 cloture votes. In the first two months of 2010, the number already exceeds 40.

That means, with 10 months left to run in the 111th Congress, Republicans have turned to the filibuster or threatened its use at a pace that will more than triple the old record. [emphasis added]

Political science professor Jim Riddlesperger told the AP, ”The numbers are astonishing in this Congress.”

That’s absolutely true. The scope of this abuse is unlike anything we’ve ever seen in the United States. A discredited minority decided that elections no longer have consequences, and that blocking the Senate’s ability to vote on the majority’s agenda is entirely acceptable.

Of course, our political system encourages this misconduct — the less than gets done, the angrier the public. The angrier the public, the more likely the majority party loses. Ergo, the minority has a powerful incentive to make sure nothing gets done.

I suspect the frustration felt by President Obama must be pretty intense. The country has effectively told him, “We need you to rescue an economy in freefall, oversee two costly wars, fix a deteriorating job market, address a crushing debt, and fix health care, energy policy, immigration, a housing crisis, a collapsing U.S. auto industry, the Gitmo mess, and America’s reputation around the world. Oh, and for the first time in American history, literally every measure and nomination of any significance will be blocked by a Senate filibuster. Good luck.”

And the great irony is, the party that’s responsible for the gridlock and unprecedented obstructionism is poised to be rewarded for their ridiculous behavior.

I continue to think observers should characterize Republican filibuster abuse for what it is: an extraordinary political scandal that undermines the American government’s ability to function.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.