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The Senate Syndrome: The Evolution of Procedural Warfare in the Modern U.S. Senate, Steven S. Smith

Reviewed by Gregory J. Wawro

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The evolution of the U.S. Senate into its current form as a supermajoritarian institution is one of the most important developments in the political history of the United States. This book is an indispensable chronicle of the events over the past half century that have led to the current state of the institution, a state that is markedly different from the way the chamber operated during most of its history.

The syndrome referenced in the title of the book is a fairly recent change in the behavior of senators whereby both the majority and minority parties exploit their procedural prerogatives to the fullest for political gain. This is a momentous change for an institution long characterized by a collegial envi­ronment in which compromise was prevalent and senators practiced remark­able restraint in limiting their use of the extraordinary parliamentary rights granted to them. As minorities have expanded the use of parliamentary obstruction (generically labeled “filibustering”), especially with respect to the range of Senate business in which obstruction is employed, majorities and their leaders have responded by limiting minority p

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