The Not-So-Super Majority: The Filibuster and the Future of the United States Senate
Colley, Jarrod C
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The debate over the use of dilatory tactics in the United States Senate is not new. Though initially used sparingly and without much notice, the modern filibuster has presented itself as the rule, not the exception, for legislation to pass the Senate. Such a de facto practice is arguably detrimental to democracy, as it takes an ever harder-lined anti- majoritarian slant in an already anti-majoritarian chamber and places an artificial threshold that many argue does more damage than good. This thesis seeks to assess the history of the filibuster and other pertinent dilatory tactics in the U.S. Senate to determine its effect on legislation. Specifically, this study aims to evaluate whether legislation that must overcome a filibuster reflects compromise more so than legislation passed by a majority vote or unanimous consent and identify what some of the motivating factors surrounding the filibuster are. Chapter I focuses primarily on the background of the filibuster via a detailed review of its theoretical underpinnings and the arguments surrounding filibuster reform in the modern literature. Chapter II attempts to create an empirical measurement to determine how the filibuster effects legislation and, more specifically, if it causes legislation to become more bipartisan through the process. The findings of this assessment, while inconclusive, serve as a starting point for future research into the subject. Chapter III looks at contemporary political pressures on why the filibuster still exists and what the opposition to change is, along with deconstructing those arguments to assess their validity. The goal of this work is to provide the public with a more palatable introduction and overview of the filibuster in the United States Senate that is both academically rigorous and politically persuasive. With the continuation of rising anti-democratic sentiment across the nation and continuous empowerment of demagogic leaders by extremist media, this work strives to be one of the many that are written to support the American experiment that was originally put forth in 1789.