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Filibuster Abuse

  • Susan M. Liss
  • Mimi Murray
  • Digby Marziani
Published: December 10, 2010

Over the last decade, Senate proced­ures have increas­ingly been used to prevent decision-making rather than to promote delib­er­a­tion and debate. The threat of a fili­buster – coupled with a 60-vote require­ment to force any sub­stant­ive vote – has affected nearly every action in the Senate during the last several years, under both Repub­lican and Demo­cratic major­it­ies. As a result, the Senate has effect­ively ceased oper­at­ing as the major­it­arian insti­tu­tion our founders inten­ded for it to be.

Fortu­nately, the Senate’s Commit­tee on Rules and Admin­is­tra­tion has held a series of hear­ings this year examin­ing the fili­buster’s history, its current impact on the func­tion­ing of the Senate, and propos­als for reform. In addi­tion to testi­fy­ing in person at one of these hear­ings, the Bren­nan Center submit­ted four sets of writ­ten testi­mony. These are repro­duced in edited versions in this report, which tries to illu­mi­n­ate the extent of dysfunc­tion in today’s Senate and the ways our demo­cracy is suffer­ing as a result.