Reporter’s guide to filibuster reform in the U.S. Senate

Proposals and procedures to change rules in 112th Congress

When the 112th Congress convenes next week, returning Senate democrats are urging Majority Leader Harry Reid to call for reform of rules pertaining to filibusters. Filibuster threats and cloture votes blocked legislation nearly 100 times in the 111th Congress.

Congressional expert and Washington University in St. Louis political science professor Steven S. Smith has prepared a guide for reporters covering the reform proposals and procedures necessary to change the Senate’s rules.

To view the guide, click here.

In May, Smith warned the U.S. Senate Committee on Rules and Administration that an unhealthy syndrome of exploiting the rules — by both the minority and majority — was blocking important legislation and limiting debate.

On Sept. 22, Smith argued, before the same committee, that the increase in the obstructive use of rules is a long-term condition that “undercuts the role of the senator and harms the Senate as a policy-making institution.”

Smith told the committee that “wishing for better behavior” on the part of senators and their leaders won’t reverse the consequences of “two decades of intensifying parliamentary warfare” that has contributed to the demise of the appropriations process, more packaging in omnibus bills, and a shift of policy decision-making from committees to party leadership offices, among other changes.

Steven S. Smith, PhD, is the Kate M. Gregg Professor of Social Sciences and professor of political science in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis.