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December 12, 2014
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v2.1 Reference

Defending the Filibuster, Revised and Updated Edition, Revised and Updated Edition

The Soul of the Senate

Many argue that the Senate filibuster is undemocratic or even unconstitutional. Recent legislative disputes have brought criticism of Senate rules into sharp relief, and demands for abolition or reform of the filibuster have increased. In Defending the Filibuster, a veteran Senate aide and a former Senate Parliamentarian maintain that the filibuster is fundamental to the character of the Senate, protecting the rights of the minority in American politics, assuring stability and deliberation in government, and helping to preserve constitutional principles of checks and balances and separation of powers. Richard A. Arenberg and Robert B. Dove provide an instructive historical overview of the development of Senate rules, describe related procedures and tactics, and argue passionately for measured reforms.

Thoroughly updated to reflect recent events, this edition includes a new chapter recounting the events of 2012–13 that led to the first use of the "nuclear option" to restrict the use of the filibuster for presidential nominations, as well as a new foreword by former US Senator Olympia Snowe. The authors offer a stimulating assessment of the likelihood of further changes in Senate procedure and make their own proposals for reform.

About the Authors

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

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


"Rich in historical anecdotes about instances when the strange antics to delay Senate decisions actually led to better policy making, this book will become the 'go to' authority on the filibuster. This volume should be valuable to general readers, students, and research faculty. . . . Highly recommended."—Choice

"An impassioned and cogent defense of the Senate's most controversial practice."—Kirkus Reviews

"Arenberg and Dove successfully explain why, despite its flaws, the filibuster is worth preserving or reforming rather than eliminating. (Reviewing a previous edition)"—ForeWord Reviews

"Regardless of whether you agree with [the authors'] conclusions, the book will be a must read for anyone who wants to be a part of the debate about how to improve the function of the Senate. (Reviewing a previous edition)"—Roll Call

"Legislative battles over healthcare and the federal budget have spurred demands to reform or abolish the filibuster in the US Senate. The authors argue that the filibuster is fundamental to the very character of the Senate, and that it protects the rights of the minority in American politics."—Survival

"Clearly written and amply supported, Defending the Filibuster is a must-read for all Americans, especially during these highly contentious times."—

"An historically grounded and eloquent defense of the Senate's tradition of protecting minority views by allowing extended debate until sixty Senators vote to end it."—Senator Carl Levin

"As we would expect from two experts who were part of so many historic Senate debates in the past thirty years, Rich Arenberg and Bob Dove have written an historically grounded and eloquent defense of the Senate's tradition of protecting minority views by allowing extended debate until 60 Senators vote to end it. They defend this tradition as the 'soul of the Senate' because it protects minority rights and helps Senators reach a consensus or compromise on controversial legislation. They acknowledge that those who have routinely and repeatedly resorted to the threat of the filibuster in recent years are abusing the rules, but Arenberg and Dove offer some practical reforms to the Senate rules that preserve the principle while removing the abuse, such as limiting or even eliminating debate on the motion to proceed to a bill. But ultimately, as the book effectively demonstrates, the problem of gridlock and obstruction in the Senate is not so much in the Senate rules, but rather, as Senator Harry Reid, the Senate Majority Leader, puts it, 'It is in the lack of restraint in the exercise of the prerogatives under the rules.'"—Senator Carl Levin

"While I am not a fan of the filibuster, this is probably the most thoughtful treatment of the subject ever written and well worth pondering even for those of us who think it is profoundly undemocratic. A must read for any student of the Congressional process."—Former Democratic presidential candidate Gov. Michael Dukakis

"A timely, well-researched, and cogently argued defense of the filibuster by two veterans of the Senate staff who understand the issue and its consequences."—Donald A. Ritchie, author of The U.S. Congress: A Very Short Introduction

"To anyone who knows and loves the Senate, and to anyone who wants to know more about American politics and history, this book is a joy to read. Two of the most respected people to work in the Senate over the past several decades have teamed up to write a book about the filibuster, but not just a memoir or a rigid defense of the practice. Rich Arenberg and Bob Dove provide fascinating history, much of it new to me, insightful examples from their own service, and reasoned arguments in clear language. Every reformer, including those who want to eliminate the filibuster entirely, and those who want to change it to fit the times, owes it to himself or herself to read this book and ponder the authors' message. If it doesn't make you stop and think through your own assumptions again, the problem lies with you and not in this excellent book."—Norman Ornstein

"During my years in the Senate, I learned that you should never get involved in a legislative fight without Bob Dove's advice on counsel. Nobody knows more about the rules and history of the Senate than he does. Defending the Filibuster: Soul of the Senate should be required reading for anyone who wants to understand one of the hallmarks of our democracy."—Bob Dole, former US Senator

"In this excellent volume, two extraordinarily qualified Senate veterans explain and defend, with clarity and impressive research, the Senate filibuster. With their deep understanding of, and respect for, the institution of the Senate, they point to the need to protect minority rights and to build consensus—and they propose evolutionary reforms to reduce filibuster abuse. This book deserves to be read and considered carefully by all who respect, and want to understand better, the world's greatest deliberative body."—Lee H. Hamilton, former US Representative; Director, the Center on Congress at Indiana University
Indiana University Press
Revised and Updated Edition

9780253016270 : defending-the-filibuster-revised-and-updated-edition-2nd-edition-arenberg-dove
Paperback / softback
306 Pages
$30.00 USD

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Defending the Filibuster

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Defending the Filibuster

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