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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

4.2 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0226449654
ISBN-10: 0226449653
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"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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Product Details

  • 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: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,212,027 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
When most people think of filibustering they probably recall the famous scene from Mr. Smith Goes to Washington where Senator Smith stands up and speaks endlessly in front of the Senate. Or maybe they recall from school Strom Thurmond's more than twenty-four hour talk-a-thon on the Senate floor filibustering the Civil Rights Act of 1957. But various other tactics have been used in the history of Congress.

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.
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Format: Paperback
Koger's book on Congressional obstruction is essentially a Master's thesis on the topic. The book uses filibuster in the broadest sense to refer to all types of obstruction including threats of filibusters, quorum calls, disappearing quorums, introducing multiple amendments, motions to adjourn, and other tricks. It seeks to quantify, categorize, and analyze the "filibuster" in two periods: the historical Senate prior to 1901 and the modern Senate ever since.

Koger does a nice job of giving us all of the different types of obstruction and some clear examples of when they were used, though it is a little difficult to keep up with the various rules changes. However, Koger does do a good job describing the changes that brought us to the current state of play: the use of Senate holds and the transition from defeating filibusters by attrition (wearing out the filibustering party) to addressing them by accommodation and outrage. That largely occurred during Mike Mansfield's time as Senate Majority leader in the 1960s and 1970s. The author also demonstrates that obstruction is not some hallowed institution of the Senate and, in fact, has more historical underpinnings in the House than the Senate. It will give you a reason to roll your eyes when you hear Senators of either political party describe why minority filibusters are so important to the world's "greatest" deliberative body.

Unfortunately for those concerned about Congressional gridlock, the book also shows how previous efforts at reform have done little to limit the filibuster and in many ways enhanced it by institutionalizing it. Only radical reform in the House prior to 1900, extremely unlikely in the modern day Senate, successfully snuffed out filibuster activity.

The book is a quick read and I recommend it for any student of Congress.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have sought over the years to find a theoretically-compelling, empirically rich, and accessible treatment of the filibuster. Now that I've read Koger's book, "Filibustering", I have stopped searching.

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.
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