Filibuster abuse destabilizes government and is unconstitutional

Filibuster has become a popular tool for legislators. “Republicans have held the U.S. Senate hostage despite their minority status and losses in the last election,” says Merton Bernstein, emeritus professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis. “Indeed, the threat of a filibuster enables the minority to exact concessions that the electorate had already rejected in several elections. This sabotage of the democratic process not only shuts down the legislative process, short circuits the confirmation of presidential nominees, but also threatens large foreign purchases of U.S. bonds that lower interest rates for federal, state and business borrowing.”

Filibuster reforms set for debate Jan. 25 should appeal to Republicans, expert suggests

When the Senate convenes Jan. 25, it is expected to weigh a resolution to reform the filibuster rule and eliminate secret holds — protocols that many have blamed for encouraging congressional gridlock. Although the proposal is put forth by the Democratic majority in the Senate, it contains a series of relatively modest changes that should hold some appeal to the Senate’s Republiican minority, suggests congressional expert Steven S. Smith, PhD.

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

Reporters covering the Senate and citizens watching from the sidelines will welcome a new guide to the upcoming battle over the filibuster from one of the preeminent authorities on Congress.  Political science professor Steven S. Smith has prepared a primer outlining proposals and procedures for reforming the Senate’s rules pertaining to filibusters. Get ready for the opening of the 112th Congress and a possible showdown over the parliamentary procedure that has been used to block legislation by both parties and famously by Jimmy Stewart in the 1939 film, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.

Expert says U.S. Senate needs to reform its rules

Steven Smith, director of the Weidenbaum Center and political science professor is calling for filibuster reform in the U.S. Senate.  And he’s taking his message to Capitol hill.Smith is participating in a conference sponsored by the Weidenbaum Center and the Brookings Institution on the “State of the Senate” May 17 in Washington D.C. On May 19, Smith will testify before the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration to argue his case for reform of the rules that are obstructing and restricting the legislative role of the Senate.

Health debate puts heat on Senate parliamentarian

Reconciliation is a “fast-track” legislative process that bypasses potential Senate gridlock and permits the passage of budget-related legislation by majority vote. It’s a hot-button issue now as the Senate grapples with health-care legislation. “The passage this term of health-care legislation, and perhaps the future of health care reform more generally now may turn on rulings of the current parliamentarian,” says Cheryl Block, JD, professor of law. 

Democrats’ end-run on health care could escalate Senate parliamentary arms race, expert predicts

As President Barack Obama and the U.S. Congress head for a final showdown over long-stalled health-care reform legislation, pundits are struggling to explain an array of arcane congressional rules and protocols that may determine whether health care reform passes or dies on the vine. Many of these pundits are getting it wrong, suggests WUSTL congressional expert Steven S. Smith, Ph.D.

Democrats’ closing of Senate session offers taste of tactics for battling Supreme Court nomination

SmithBy invoking a little known procedural rule to force a closed session of the Senate on Tuesday, Democratic Minority Leader Harry Reid put Republicans on notice that Democrats are prepared to use similar tactics, such as the filibuster, in pending Supreme Court nomination battles, suggests WUSTL congressional expert Steven Smith. Reid’s move “was a shot across the bow,” says Smith.

Republicans have nothing to gain from planned 30-hour Senate debate, says congressional expert

SmithSenate Republicans and Democrats are preparing for a 30-hour marathon debate on judicial nominations starting about 6 p.m. Nov. 12 and running as long as early morning on Friday, Nov. 14. Republican senators say they want the country to know that Democrats are stalling judicial nominations made by President Bush. Democrats have filibustered on four recent Bush appeals court nominations and may use similar tactics on future nominees. Congressional expert Steven Smith says this is business as usual in Congress and that Republicans have used the same tactics in the past.