Filibuster: Obstruction and Lawmaking in the U.S. Senate

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Princeton University Press, 2006 - Political Science - 308 pages
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Parliamentary obstruction, popularly known as the "filibuster," has been a defining feature of the U.S. Senate throughout its history. In this book, Gregory J. Wawro and Eric Schickler explain how the Senate managed to satisfy its lawmaking role during the nineteenth and early twentieth century, when it lacked seemingly essential formal rules for governing debate.

What prevented the Senate from self-destructing during this time? The authors argue that in a system where filibusters played out as wars of attrition, the threat of rule changes prevented the institution from devolving into parliamentary chaos. They show that institutional patterns of behavior induced by inherited rules did not render Senate rules immune from fundamental changes.

The authors' theoretical arguments are supported through a combination of extensive quantitative and case-study analysis, which spans a broad swath of history. They consider how changes in the larger institutional and political context--such as the expansion of the country and the move to direct election of senators--led to changes in the Senate regarding debate rules. They further investigate the impact these changes had on the functioning of the Senate. The book concludes with a discussion relating battles over obstruction in the Senate's past to recent conflicts over judicial nominations.


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Wheres the Pivot?
Dilatory Motions and the Success of Obstruction
Obstruction and the Tariff
lum Senate continued
to 1930 continued
80th Congress 18711948
48th62nd Congress
Cloture Reform Reconsidered
and House
The Impact of Cloture on the Appropriations Process

Slavery and Obstruction in the Antebellum Senate
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Page 300 - Manual shall govern the Senate in all cases to which they are applicable, and in which they are not inconsistent with the standing rules and orders of the Senate and the joint rules of the Senate and House of Representatives.

About the author (2006)

Eric Schickler is Jeffrey & Ashley McDermott Professor of Political Science at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of Disjointed Pluralism: Institutional Innovation and the Development of the U.S. Congress (2001), whichwon the Richard F. Fenno Jr. Prize for the best book on legislative politics in2002. He is the co-author, with Donald Green and Bradley Palmquist, ofPartisan Hearts and Minds (2002) and, with Gregory Wawro, of Filibuster: Obstruction and Lawmaking in the U.S. Senate (2006), which won the FennoPrize in 2007. His articles have appeared in the American Political ScienceReview, American Journal of Political Science, Legislative Studies Quarterly, andStudies in American Political Development, among others.

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