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From Deliberation to Dysfunction

From Deliberation to Dysfunction

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Report from Scott Lilly urges the Senate to adopt modest procedural changes to curb some of the filibuster’s worst abuses and make the Senate more responsible.
Report from Scott Lilly urges the Senate to adopt modest procedural changes to curb some of the filibuster’s worst abuses and make the Senate more responsible.

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Categories:Types, Research, Law
Published by: Center for American Progress on Apr 11, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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04/11/2011

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From Deliberation to Dysfunction
It Is Time or Procedural Reorm in the U.S. Senate
Scott Lilly March 2010
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From Deliberation to Dysfunction
It Is Time or Procedural Reorm in the U.S. Senate
Scott Lilly March 2010
 
1Center for American Progress | From Deliberation to Dysfunction
Introduction and summary
Te U.S. Senate has a proud tradition o ensuring that important decisions are careully weighed beore they become law. Tis has served the nation well at times. But undercurrent practices the latitude granted to individual senators to obstruct does not alwayscontribute to more measured consideration o national policy. In recent years, the Senatehas been less and less able to ollow the regular order in the consideration o pending legis-lation, the confrmation o senior executive branch ocials, and other work.Increasingly, the Senate has been orced to rely on legislative shortcuts that severely undermine the philosophy o ull and careul consideration o all maers beore the body.Even so, the chamber ails to complete much o the work or which it is responsible andalls so ar behind schedule in completing the work it does do as to seriously underminethe capacity o the entire ederal government to respond in an eective and ecient way to the problems acing our country.Te root cause o these problems is the institution’s inability to adopt rules that balancethe responsibilities o Congress against the rights o individual senators. Rules that allow the Senate to limit debate and maintain a unctional schedule have not been strengthenedin more than our decades, but during that period the workload has increased signifcantly,and the willingness o senators to use all o the powers oered by the rules to obstructlegislative progress has increased exponentially.While many Americans continue to think o the flibuster as it was portrayed in the 1939flm, “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” it has evolved into a very dierent practice overthe course o the past 71 years. It has been decades since a senator actually took to theoor and aempted to block legislation through extended speechmaking. Now a senatormerely needs to serve notice that he or she will not concur in a procedural motion by theleadership that the prospects or making progress on the legislation proposed or consid-eration are so diminished that it is oen pulled rom the legislative schedule. Tis practiceapplies to not only new laws altering national policy in some signifcant way, but also tothe annual spending bills that keep the government operating and even the appointmentjudges, senior, and even not-so-senior executive branch ocials and military ocers.While it is unlikely the Senate will abandon the flibuster, it is clear that the rules govern-ing the use o the flibuster must change i the body is to be prevented rom becoming a

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