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Research Report

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.