- Series: Chicago Studies in American Politics
- Paperback: 272 pages
- Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; First Edition, First Printing edition (June 1, 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0226449653
- ISBN-13: 978-0226449654
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 15 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 6 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,065,211 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Filibustering: A Political History of Obstruction in the House and Senate (Chicago Studies in American Politics) First Edition, First Printing Edition
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"Filibustering offers an impressive theory of obstruction that undercuts conventional wisdom on the filibuster and provides a more complete analysis of this important topic than has previously been available either in one source or collectively." - Bruce I. Oppenheimer, Vanderbilt University"
About the Author
Gregory Koger is assistant professor of political science at the University of Miami. Previously, he worked as a legislative assistant in the U.S. House of Representatives.
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The book is roughly divided into two parts. The first deals with the historic Congress from 1789-1901 and the other is the modern Congress from 1901-present. Interestingly, during the nineteenth century filibustering was far more common in the House of Representatives through disappearing quorums and unnecessary roll call votes. Then rule changes in the 1890s put an effective end to filibustering in the House.
In the Senate, obstruction led to the enactment of the cloture rule in 1917. Paradoxically, the cloture rule only seemed to increase the amount of filibustering rather than put a stop to it. Events over the twentieth century led to the so-called sixty vote Senate. Sixty votes being necessary to pass significant legislation. Also examined is the use of holds.
The author examines the motivation for filibustering and what leads to the proliferation of it.
All in all, a pretty interesting look at the filibuster in the U.S. Congress. A good read for anyone interested in political history or Congressional history.
Why is this book so good? First, it treats the filibuster in the Senate as but one case of the larger concept of obstruction. Koger demonstrates that obstruction can occur in the House or the Senate--and that patterns of obstruction observed over time and the response by chamber majorities to that obstruction relates to the value of time. As a legislator's time becomes more valuable, both the decision of an individual legislator to obstruct and the majority's response to that obstruction is altered. Filibustering is frequent in today's Senate because Senate majorities are not willing to wait out filibusters--time waiting out filibusters is better spent raising money, campaigning, or doing committee work. Filibustering largely ceased in the House during the late 19th century because party majorities, frustrated by obstructive minorities, altered the House rules (at great short-term political cost) to make filibustering much more difficult.
Another reason why I'm a fan of the book: Koger takes measurement seriously. Filibustering and obstruction can be elusive buggers to nail down: they are tricky to observe from roll call votes alone. Koger uses a mixed measurement approach to the problem--culling filibustering from roll call records and media accounts to develop a defensible measure of legislative obstruction. He demonstrates its validity by carefully walking the reader through the construction of his obstruction data and comparing it other measures. To witness the amount of time and effort put into the careful development of his filibustering data alone is worth the price of admission.
But the most important contribution Koger makes, in my humble opinion, is the demonstration that single-peaked preferences alone do not explain the voting behavior of members of Congress. For example, Koger provides evidence that members may actually filibuster a bill they prefer to see passed simply to prevent another bill--one that members do not want to see passed--from acted upon. In other words, preferences are not single-peaked -members take into account timing, scheduling, and other factors when deciding to obstruct a bill. Demonstrating the practical problems of treating each and every vote as if it were arrayed along a single ideological dimension is long overdue, and suggests the perils of adopting theoretical assumptions which overly simplify what is in practice a complex preference calculation with many competing dimensions.
Great book, and a great read. Suitable for a wide-range of audiences.
Still, I got one very clear insight from this book, and that is that the United States Senate changed the filibustering -- which had formerly required Senators to speak on the floor of the Senate for as long as they wanted to hold the floor to one in which the Senators only need to "threaten" to filibuster -- for the comfort and convenience of the Senators. That is so wrong; the whole point of the process is that it's supposed to be uncomfortable. It's supposed to require the devotion of a Mr. Smith goes to Washington. It's supposed to be reserved for the issues that individual Senators care most passionately about, it's not supposed to be an ordinary parliamentary procedure. Shame on the United States Senate. And it's too bad that these authors didn't write a more vivid book.