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"The filibuster has become so encrusted with myth, anecdote, and self-serving interpretation that it tends to be appraised in either demonic or sentimental terms. In this book, Binder and Smith present a hard and methodologically impecable study that is one of the most satisfying examinations of any aspect of the legislative process that I have read in recent years. It is a superb piece of work." —Ross K. Baker, Rutgers University
"With their clear-eyed analysis, Binder and Smith have succeeded in stripping away the layers of myth and misunderstanding that have shrouded the filibuster's role in American politics, and exposed it for what it unfortunately has become: a procedural straitjacket placed on the will of the American people. The book and the balanced, thoughtfully conceived reforms it advocates are long overdue and should be required reading for the next Senate." —Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, United States Senator, Connecticut
"Finally, a book that thoroughly examines the effects of Senate rules and institutions on political behavior and policy. This well-written, admirably documented book makes an important contribution to our understanding of the U.S. Senate. I highly recommend it." —Mathew D. McCubbins, University of California, San Diego
|1||The Politics and Principle of the Filibuster||1|
|2||The Original versus the Traditional Senate||29|
|3||Senate Tradition Revisited||53|
|4||Politics, Principle, and the Trivialization of the Filibuster||83|
|5||The Filibuster and the Little-Harm Thesis||127|
|6||Senate Support for Limits on Debate||161|
|7||The Past and Future of the Senate||197|
Posted April 11, 2010
I recently learned about this book. It was originally published in 1996 (this paperback copy was printed in 1997), but was discussed in a recent TV interview. The occasion was the weekend television broadcast of "BOOKtv" which is part of the C-SPAN2 network (check your local cable listings for channel). During regular seesions of the U.S. Senate, this channel shows the Senate, Live, from gavel to gavel.
But on the weekends, unless the Senate is doing something special, C-SPAN2 becomes BOOKtv. This is a 48-hour non-stop presentation of appearances by authors (non-fiction) as they speak about their latest books, whether in small bookstores across the Nation; or in a one-one setting, either on-stage or in a radio studio; or as part of a large gathering of authors, such as at a large book festival in one of the states.
This book's author, Susan A. Binder, was shown in an interview as she spoke about the history of the Fillibuster as it's used in the U.S. Senate. What surprised me, right off-the-bat, was to learn that, when the Constitution first went into effect in 1789, both the House of Representatives and the Senate had the same set of rules. Rules that included what was known as the Termination of Debate motion. That's how they decided to stop talking about a Bill, and actually vote on it - to turn it into a law.
For some reason (read the book), in the 1800's, the Senate decided that their Official Rule Book had become too cluttered. So they cleaned it out, getting rid of what they had determined to be unnecessary stuff. The right to do that is in the Constitution:
Article I, Section 5, Paragraph 2, states -
"Each House [of Congress] may determine the Rules of its Proceedings, punish its Members for disorderly Behaviour, and, with the Concurrence of two thirds, expel a Member."
Thus was born what eventually became known as the Filibuster. Not gonna tell you where that word comes from (hint: think Dutch), but that wasn't the term used in the actual Rule Book.
But that's part of the rest of the story . . .
. . . maybe you've noticed the recent controversy over that "Reconciliation" rule that the Senate recently used to successfully pass the new Health Care Reform (HCR) Law.
There were a lot of objections from the Republican side about using this procedure to avoid having to go through the "Cloture" process (oh, be sure to read how THAT word came about) in order to get the legislation passed.
But this book will give you a really good understanding of how the Filibuster originally came about; and, more importantly, why all those complaints you hear from those same senators and representatives about how they wished "the system" could be reformed, are in fact the very people who keep this stuff from being reformed!
Read the book, and learn something . . .