Defending the Filibuster: The Soul of the Senate

By in Federal Jurisdiction on June 28, 2013

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Recent legislative battles over healthcare reform, the federal budget, and other prominent issues have given rise to widespread demands for the abolition or reform of the filibuster in the US Senate. Critics argue that members’ traditional rights of unlimited debate and amendment have led to paralyzing requirements for supermajorities and destructive parliamentary tactics such as “secret holds.” In Defending the Filibuster, a veteran Senate aide and a former Senate Parliamentarian maintain that the filibuster is fundamental to the character of the Senate. They contend that the filibuster protects the rights of the minority in American politics, assures stability and deliberation in government, and helps to preserve constitutional principles of checks and balances and separation of powers. Richard A. Arenberg and Robert B. Dove provide an instructive historical overview of the development of Senate rules, define and describe related procedures and tactics, examine cases related to specific pieces of legislation, and consider current proposals to end the filibuster or enact other reforms. Arguing passionately in favor of retaining the filibuster, they offer a stimulating assessment of the issues surrounding current debates on this contentious issue.

2 thoughts on “Defending the Filibuster: The Soul of the Senate

  1. Joanna Johnson
    13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    Nobody said democracy would be easy, September 21, 2012

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    I had concerns about the filibuster prior to reading this book, but they were all neatly laid to rest. To put it simply, democracy requires respect for the minority, and the filibuster is one of a precious few mechanisms making that possible. Can use of the filibuster be annoying? If it isn’t your side using it, then yes, of course. It’s like people making out on the subway: disgusting when it’s them, but perfect and beautiful when it’s you. Nobody said democracy would be easy. Clearly written and amply supported, DEFENDING THE FILIBUSTER is a must-read for all Americans, especially during these highly contentious times.

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  2. Harvey Boulay
    7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    Filibuster front and center, August 26, 2012
    Harvey Boulay (Norfolk, MA United States) –

    This review is from: Defending the Filibuster: The Soul of the Senate (Hardcover)

    Whatever the outcomes of the 2012 elections, the Senate filibuster will be central to the American political landscape in ways not seen in the last fifty years. Arenberg and Dow, eschewing the usual “now on the one hand…” approach, make a strongly reasoned case for the necessity of the filibuster (although they are open to several significant reforms). Their argument will require opponents of the filibuster to make an equally detailed case for abolition or radical change of Rule 22. The prose is clear and always readable which is most helpful on a journey that assays the historical, theoretical, and tactical aspects of the filibuster as it has emerged in the culture of the Senate. Importantly, this is a book about dealing with minority rights–a challenge for all democratic political systems and a conundrum for many. It is also a cautionary story of how political actions may produce unintended and even anti-intended consequences. The book is an invaluable resource as this important debate about debating continues.

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