The procedural rule requiring 60 votes, in most cases, to end a filibuster — to cut off debate and proceed to a vote on a pending bill — is a defining, frequently maligned feature of the Senate. But while most of us have heard of the filibuster, myths about what it is, and isn’t, abound. Here are five.

There is a good case to be made for structural changes to the Senate. Clearly, the chamber is not functioning well. Continued rules reform by majority fiat, such as the use of the “nuclear option,” will not reduce but exacerbate the extreme partisan polarization at the heart of the gridlock.

The historic difficulty with changing the filibuster rules is that when th...

The Senate is headed for a showdown over the filibuster. Democrats and Republicans are locked in a struggle that brings to mind the Cold War deterrence strategy of mutually assured destruction.

This theory held that the nuclear arsenals of the Soviet Union and the United States could each annihilate the other, so neither would dare launch an attack. Under Senate Ru...

Majority Leader Harry Reid, frustrated by abuse of the filibuster, has vowed to change the Senate’s rule on the first day of the new Congress.

If he chooses to invoke the “constitutional option” — the assertion that the Senate can, on the first day of a session, change its rules by a majority vote — he will be heading down a slippery slope that the curren...

Please reload

Richard A. Arenberg

Brown University