We review debates concerning the evolution and impact of parliamentary obstruction in the U.S. Senate, focusing on path dependency versus remote majoritarian perspectives. We consider the viability of circumventing supermajority requirements for rules changes by using rulings from the chair to establish precedents. Because the viability of this approach depends, at least in part, on the anticipated reaction of the public, we conduct a preliminary analysis of public opinion data from the 1940s through the 1960s and from the showdown over the obstruction of judicial nominees in 2005. We contend that the balance of the evidence favors the position that senators have generally supported the maintenance of the filibuster and have been able to make procedural adjustments when obstruction threatened a committed majority's top priorities, although we offer some important refinements required in comparing the historical operation of obstruction to its impact in today's Senate.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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