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Exceptions to the Rule: The Politics of Filibuster Limitations in the U.S. Senate Paperback – July 18, 2017
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From the Back Cover
Special rules enable the Senate to act despite the filibuster . . . sometimes.
Many believe that in today’s partisan environment, the filibuster affects Senate action on all but the least controversial matters. But this is not entirely correct. In fact, the Senate since the 1970s has created a series of special rules―described by Molly Reynolds as “majoritarian exceptions”―that limit debate on a wide range of measures on the Senate floor.
The details of these procedures might sound arcane and technical, but in practice they enable the Senate to act even when it otherwise seems paralyzed. Important examples include procedures used to pass the annual congressional budget resolution, enact budget reconciliation bills, review proposals to close military bases, ratify trade agreements, and reconsider regulations promulgated by the executive branch―all issues that have captured the nation’s attention with the advent of a new presidential administration.
Reynolds argues that these procedures represent a key instrument of majority party power in the Senate. They allow the majority―even if it does not have the sixty votes needed to block a filibuster―to take action that will improve its future electoral prospects.
Exceptions to the Rule examines the Senate’s role in the budget reconciliation process, in which particular congressional committees are charged with developing procedurally protected proposals to alter certain federal programs in their jurisdictions. Since the early 1980s, the reconciliation process has become a powerful tool for the majority party to bypass the minority and adopt policy changes in hopes that it will benefit in the next election cycle.
About the Author
Molly E. Reynolds is a fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution, where she studies Congress, with an emphasis on the policy consequences of congressional rules and procedures.
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