May 19, 2022

Filibusters: History, Purpose, & Controversy [POLICYbrief]



In the 1939 classic Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, the fictional Senator Jefferson Smith filibusters on the floor of the Senate for 25 hours in order to delay a bill and block a graft scheme. Smith ended his filibuster by collapsing in a faint.

Though actual filibusters tend to be far less dramatic, they are still regularly utilized by senators to extend debate, block legislation, delay a vote, or achieve legislative consensus. But has the filibuster always been used this way? In this video co-sponsored by the Article I Initiative, Senator Mike Lee (Utah) explores the evolution of the filibuster and its use in the Senate.

As always, the Federalist Society takes no particular legal or public policy positions. All opinions expressed are those of the speaker.

Learn more about Mike Lee:

https://www.lee.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/about-mike

Learn more about the Article I Initiative:
http://www.fedsoc.org/articlei

Related Links & Differing Views:

Congressional Research Service: “Filibusters and Cloture in the Senate”
https://www.senate.gov/CRSpubs/3d51be23-64f8-448e-aa14-10ef0f94b77e.pdf

The New York Times: “The Senate Filibuster, Explained”

The Atlantic: “The Silenced Majority”
https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2009/01/the-silenced-majority/307230/

Claremont Institute: “Against Senate Resolution 355”
https://www.claremont.org/crb/basicpage/against-senate-resolution-355/

The Federalist Society Podcast: “Changing the Rules: The Senate Filibuster”
https://fedsoc.org/commentary/podcasts/changing-the-rules-the-senate-filibuster-podcast

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