The byproduct of the cloture rule changes in 1917 and 1974 is you need to invoke cloture to proceed to a bill. Senators don't have to speak to vote against cloture. If you can't get 60, you can't move it to the floor. On the motion to proceed, if a Republican chose to get up they can speak about any topic they want, or they can sit down and begin an endless series of quorum calls. Or they can begin motions to proceed on their own set of bills.
Basically there is no way to force a Senator to speak or vote on any particular bill and if you can't get 60 you can't proceed to final passage.
No. This did not become a staple of the legislative process until 2006, when the Republicans adopted a policy of obstructionism. In abnormally combative years before the Democratic takeover, there would 50 cloture votes over the life of the congress; in the 2006-7 congress, there were well over 100, which ground the Senate to a near halt.
And now, with the largest majority any party has seen in decades, the Senate is still stopped dead in its tracks.
This cannot continue. If the Majority Leader does nothing, it will become normal for the Senate to require 60 votes to pass anything, and will permanently write gridlock into the rules of the government. It will become normal for our increasingly ideologically homogeneous parties to derail each other's entire agendas with this one rule change unless they achieve a senatorial supermajority, which we haven't seen since the Carter Administration (and the Republicans haven't seen in a hundred years).
First of all, I think people will notice, and the papers will cover it, if a Republican has brought the Senate to a standstill and is sitting alone in the chamber calling quorums all day and night. It's not like CNN is going to keep the cameras on an actual speechifying filibuster except at certain brief moments, so what difference does it make if they're speaking or not?
Second, this rule has got to be changed. Filibusters are supposed to entail risk for the acting party in the form of the citizenry seeing them hog the stage and stop the government rather than allow the Senate to vote on bill X. Without that, there is no disincentive for the minority party to filibuster everything that comes across their desks, and suddenly you have an absurd 3/5 majority requirement for virtually every vote, no matter how mundane, if it offers even the slightest benefit to any party. I'm not saying the filibuster should be abolished, but some equalizing factor, some disincentive, has to be reintroduced (like, gosh I dunno, making them speak!). This is insane.