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A Political History of Obstruction in the House and Senate


A Political History of Obstruction in the House and Senate

In the modern Congress, one of the highest hurdles for major bills or nominations is gaining the sixty votes necessary to shut off a filibuster in the Senate.  But this wasn’t always the case. Both citizens and scholars tend to think of the legislative process as a game played by the rules in which votes are the critical commodity—the side that has the most votes wins. In this comprehensive volume,Gregory Koger shows, on the contrary, that filibustering is a game with slippery rules in which legislators who think fast and try hard can triumph over superior numbers.

Filibustering explains how and why obstruction has been institutionalized in the U.S. Senate over the last fifty years, and how this transformation affects politics and policymaking. Koger also traces the lively history of filibustering in the U.S. House during the nineteenth century and measures the effects of filibustering—bills killed, compromises struck, and new issues raised by obstruction. Unparalleled in the depth of its theory and its combination of historical and political analysis, Filibustering will be the definitive study of its subject for years to come.

272 pages | 51 line drawings, 14 tables | 6 x 9 | © 2010

Chicago Studies in American Politics

History: American History

Political Science: American Government and Politics


Filibustering offers an impressive theory of obstruction that undercuts conventional wisdom on the filibuster and provides the most complete analysis of this important topic than has previously been available either in one source or collectively.”

Bruce I. Oppenheimer, Vanderbilt University

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations


I Foundations

1 Introduction

2 A Theory of Obstruction

II The Historic Congress, 1789 – 1901

3 The Escalation of Filibustering, 1789–1901

4 Filibusters in the Historic Congress

5 Explaining Obstruction in the Historic Congress

III The Modern Senate, 1901 – Present

6 The Growth of Filibustering in the Senate

7 Explaining the Rise of Filibustering in the Senate

8 From Attrition to Cloture: Institutionalizing the Filibuster

Afterword: The Future of the Senate





APSA Legislative Studies Section: Richard F. Fenno Jr. Prize

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