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.”
There is little on which the two Houses of Congress and the President can find compromise these days, with the sequester a vivid symbol of this polarization. And gridlock in government would only worsen if the proposed REINS Act moves forward, says Ronald M. Levin, JD, administrative law expert and professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis.
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.
The U.S. Senate lost one of its staunchest defenders and most influential leaders with the death Monday, June 28, of long-serving Democratic Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia. “The death of Robert Byrd is important,” says Steven S. Smith, a congressional expert at Washington University in St. Louis. “He was first and foremost a senator. He loved the Senate and was the strongest defender of its traditions.”
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.
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.
Whether or not Hillary Clinton wins the Democratic nomination for president, the question of how much being a woman helped or hurt her campaign will linger for a long time. A WUSTL professor discusses the unique challenges Clinton faces and why people seem to react so strongly to her. Video available.
Steven SmithPresident George W. Bush’s State of the Union address on Jan. 23 may be remembered as one of the least consequential State of the Union addresses in a generation, but its presentation could open the door on a period of real legislative compromise as both parties struggle to boster reputations in advance of the 2008 elections, suggests Steven Smith, an expert on congressional politics at Washington University in St. Louis. Video Available
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.
Sandra Day O’ConnorPresident Bush’s re-election, coupled with strengthened Republican control of the Senate, has fueled speculation that the next four years could bring about dramatic shifts in political composition of the U.S. Supreme Court. While Bush may be poised to push the court in a more conservative direction, a forthcoming study suggests his ability to make dramatic ideological changes still hinges on whether he has the opportunity to replace Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.