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Dec 11

Defending the Filibuster: The Soul of the Senate

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (R-NV) has again proposed changing the Senate’s rules to curtail the use of the filibuster, setting off a heated national debate. 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, Richard A. Arenberg and Robert B. Dove 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. They 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 – offering a stimulating assessment of the issues surrounding the current debate on this contentious issue.

Richard A. Arenberg served in senior congressional staff positions for 34 years as an aide to Majority Leader George Mitchell and Senators Paul Tsongas and Carl Levin. He is an Adjunct Lecturer in Political Science and Public Policy at Brown University, Northeastern University, and Suffolk University.

Robert B. Dove is Parliamentarian Emeritus of the United States Senate, having served as the Senate's Parliamentarian and Assistant Parliamentarian from 1966 to 2001. He is an Adjunct Professor at the Georgetown University Law Center, George Washington University, and George Mason University.

More About the Speakers

Robert Dove
Co-Author

Richard Arenberg
Co-Author

Hosted By

Hans A. von Spakovsky Hans A. von Spakovsky

Manager, Election Law Reform Initiative and Senior Legal Fellow Read More