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Kill Switch: The Rise of the Modern Senate and the Crippling of American…

– tekijä: Adam Jentleson

JäseniäKirja-arvostelujaSuosituimmuussijaKeskimääräinen arvioKeskustelut
865247,421 (4.18)-

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näyttää 5/5
I ended up more confused and less able to understand the filibuster than when I started to read this book. The author has a deceptively accessible style. The book is rooted in history and scholarship and includes accounts of recent events drawing on the author’s participation as a senate staffer. If asked, I would follow all his persuasive advice and practical suggestions, but could never understand the system he wants to change and improve. The book proves that only Americans can admire their system of government.
Delighted to find a proofing error on page 255! The author gets the title of Binder and Smith’s book wrong here - although it is correct in the footnote 15 on page 23. ( )
  mnicol | Jun 5, 2021 |
Although I still feel like the finer points of the filibuster are confusing, I certainly appreciate much more the history and historic abuse of it. Jentleson clearly believes that the Senate needs reform and has some great ideas, including both the end of the filibuster and the reform of the leadership role but I found myself wondering why the Senate can't just be like the House and then wondering why we need the two bodies if they are going to do the same thing? An interesting, deeply researched, and very thought provoking read.
1 ääni amyem58 | May 10, 2021 |
Excellent history of how the procedures of the senate have been changed over the years. If you are interested in history or government, you will enjoy this book. ( )
  grandpahobo | Apr 2, 2021 |
A good history of the Senate filibuster. Jentleson makes a reasonable case for strong and meaningful filibuster reform; this book probably should be required reading in Democratic senate offices at this point. ( )
2 ääni JBD1 | Feb 7, 2021 |
A fairly interesting refresher on the history of the US Senate. There's quite a big jump made after Johnson's term as Majority Leader—which Jentleseon explains, but is still odd. Given that today's Republicans would rather overturn US democracy rather than lose an election, it seems unlikely that much will change with the Senate or the electoral college, but perhaps some of todays' Senate Democrats will read this and learn something. Ahem.

> Johnson’s maneuvering in the summer of 1957 is rightfully considered a historic feat of personal persuasion, tactical brilliance, and strategic acumen. But only months before, Johnson had defeated an effort that might have rendered much of it moot, along with the gutting of the bill that resulted. By blocking the bipartisan coalition of reformers led by Nixon from reforming Rule 22 in January, Johnson preserved the South’s ability to credibly threaten the civil rights bill with a filibuster, making it necessary to gut the bill and win their cooperation

> Politically, the passage of the 1957 bill completed the third step in Johnson’s plan, making him a hero to many liberals. Within the Senate, it was the accomplishment that gave him the authority to finally stand on his own, apart from Russell. He would need it. Passing the bill with southern acquiescence had allowed him to delay his inevitable break with the “Old Master.”

> All other presidents combined had endured a total of eighty-two filibusters against their nominees. But from 2009 to 2013, President Obama alone faced eighty-six … under President Bill Clinton, unanimous judicial nominees—those who ended up having zero votes cast against their nomination—waited an average of 17 days to receive their confirmation votes. Under President George W. Bush, the wait was 29 days. Under President Obama, it was 125 days

> he started the process of going nuclear. He brought up a vote on a nomination and asked the presiding officer, Senator Patrick Leahy, for a ruling on whether it took a supermajority to invoke cloture. Leahy ruled that it did, since that is what Senate rules stated. Reid then called a vote to overturn the ruling of the chair and it passed, 52 to 48. This method of changing Senate rules was dubbed “the Reid Precedent” by longtime Senate staffer William Dauster. The change executed by Reid and Senate Democrats that day meant that from then on, it would take only a majority to invoke cloture and end debate on most presidential nominations, excluding, for the time being, Supreme Court nominees.

> In the twenty-first century, Senate Republicans have represented a minority of the population every year, despite holding as many as fifty-five seats, as they did from 2005 to 2006

> At thirty-nine million people, California’s population is as big as the twenty-two least populous states combined.

> From 1957 to 1960, as we have seen, Nixon was advocating for strong civil rights bills and leading a largely successful effort to expand GOP outreach to black voters. But in 1968, Nixon returned to American political life with a very different approach, using Democrats’ support for the civil rights bills Johnson passed as president to draw racist white voters

> At a moment in history when the GOP was still relatively liberal on social issues, Helms pushed it to become the culture-warring party we know today

> As the Senate grew and changed, one constant remained: the role of party leader was at best a figurehead. In 1878, the New York Times noted that the Senate had no “distinctly recognized leaders.” … to deal with the challenges of memberships and workloads that continued to grow, Senate Democrats created the formal position of leader in 1920 and Republicans followed in 1925 … This was true until 1952, when Richard Russell anointed Lyndon Johnson as the Democratic leader.

> Johnson exploited Democrats’ insecurity to break the seniority system, convincing the old bulls that the only way they could counter Eisenhower’s popularity and avoid being relegated to permanent minority status was to elevate some of their young stars, like Hubert Humphrey and Mike Mansfield, onto the key committees, where they could gain a national platform and serve as compelling spokespeople for the party. Russell backed the move, and the combination of his support and Johnson’s persuasive powers convinced the committee chairs to let Johnson play a role in doling out committee assignments.

> Early in his tenure as leader, Johnson moved to assert control over the floor schedule and inject himself into senators’ decision-making process. His vehicle was the Democratic Policy Committee, a sleepy backwater that Johnson reimagined as a way to centralize information in the leader’s office—and information was power.

> With his connections to Texas oil barons, Johnson had an enormous reservoir of funds he could distribute at will, at a time when there were few restrictions on political donations. Johnson would dispatch staffers around the country to pick up deliveries of cash, or money would make its way to him in envelopes handed over from lobbyists like Tommy Corcoran, also known as Tommy the Cork. Johnson would then apportion it to senators as he saw fit.

> even after Johnson finished remaking the role of Senate leader into a position worthy of the name, it still had little formal power. In the House, the Speaker controls the all-powerful Rules Committee, which sets the terms for every bill that comes to the floor, from how long debate will last to when and under exactly what conditions the vote will take place. To this day, the Senate majority leader enjoys no such structural control.

> Johnson was miserable in the Kennedy administration, openly despised by the president’s brother Bobby, and finding his Hill Country style an awkward fit in Camelot. “Power is where power goes,” Johnson liked to say, but that was not proving to be true. … he tried maintaining control of the Senate. He asked Mansfield to change the traditional rules governing the Democratic Party caucus to allow him, a member of the executive branch, to preside over the caucus, including sitting in on their closed-door strategy sessions. The deferential Mansfield agreed. When the caucus convened in its private session to elect new leaders, Johnson presided over the election of Mansfield as majority leader. And then he simply didn’t leave. Nor did he cede the leader’s chair to Mansfield. The members of the caucus were shocked, and a polite senatorial revolt ensued

> Until 1980, Democratic control of Congress seemed like a fact of life. Starting in 1955, Democrats held unbroken control of the Senate for twenty-six years. The story was similar in the House, but more extreme: between 1933 and 1995 Democrats controlled the House for all but four years. With control of the majority out of sight, and plenty of points of ideological connection across the aisle, Republican senators also tended to assume Democratic control was impossible to dislodge, and focused more on exerting their influence on policy than trying to take back the majority.

> The process gets its name from the chart that keeps track of what amendments are pending. It’s a piece of paper kept by clerks in the cloakroom, and the chart looks like a tree; the branches are the lines where the amendments are written in. There are a limited number of branches available on any given bill (about eleven). Filling the tree means putting the bill the leader wants the Senate to consider in one slot and placeholders in all the others. The cloakroom keeps these shell amendments close at hand for the leader to slot in when needed. Because leaders have the right of first recognition and get to speak first on any bill, it’s very difficult to stop them from filling the tree, and once it’s filled, it is extremely hard to undo. In his time as leader, Reid shattered the record for filling the tree, using the tool far more than any other leader.

> Reid took control far beyond where even Johnson had been able to push it, and it changed the institution. What had once been a wide-open floor where senators could usually secure whatever votes they sought had become a place where every single vote ran through the leader.

> Reagan’s nomination of Bork was an odd choice. The year before Reagan nominated him, Democrats had gained eight seats in the 1986 midterm elections and retaken control of the Senate. While it was common for the president of one party to ask a Senate controlled by the other party to confirm a Supreme Court nominee, the president usually nodded to political reality by picking a nominee the other party could live with. Asking a Democratic Senate to confirm a radical conservative like Bork was courting trouble, and Reagan got it. … Conservatives’ outrage over Bork’s defeat led to the emergence of one of the most influential institutions of the last four decades: the Federalist Society. The Society was founded in 1982 at Yale Law School, with Bork as its faculty adviser. The Federalist Society’s members saw themselves as “scrappy outsiders who were waging a lonely struggle against the pervasive liberalism of America’s law schools,”

> While he lost his presidential bid to then–Texas governor George W. Bush, McCain’s campaign had elevated his corruption message, and it stuck. Backed by that momentum, he led Senate reformers to finally break McConnell’s filibuster in 2002 and the Senate passed McCain-Feingold, formally known as the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, by a vote of 60 to 40. President Bush reluctantly signed it into law. Undaunted, McConnell promptly took the law to court—literally. The lawsuit, McConnell v. FEC, went all the way up to the Supreme Court, which ruled for McCain in a 5-to-4 decision, upholding the major aspects of McCain-Feingold and explicitly rebuking the narrow definition of corruption advocated by McConnell. “Plaintiffs conceive of corruption too narrowly,” the majority opinion concluded. “Congress’ legitimate interest extends beyond preventing simple cash-for-votes corruption to curbing undue influence on an office-holder’s judgment, and the appearance of such influence.”

> Using Gold and Gupta’s rationale, Republicans argued that it would be firmly in line with Senate tradition to overturn Rule 22 and end debate with a majority vote—in other words, to go nuclear

> John Roberts sailed through on a 78-to-22 vote. A few months later, Bush nominated the hard-right Samuel Alito. When Democrats threatened to filibuster, Republicans threatened—again—to go nuclear. Democrats backed off, and Alito was confirmed, 58 to 42. The deal looks even worse zoomed out: all of Bush’s far-right nominees were confirmed, but the filibuster was left intact for Republicans to use against President Obama—which they did to devastating effect. That obstruction has already been discussed, but here it is worth noting the enormous political capital that five years of constant obstruction cost Obama before Democrats finally went nuclear in 2013

> by the 1970s leaders were overwhelmed. The tracking system allowed the Senate to process other business during a filibuster by creating separate legislative tracks where other business could move along while one track remained blocked by a filibuster. Because the Senate was able to move on to other issues, a filibuster didn’t attract as much attention as it used to. However, it still blocked the bill it was aimed at

> In 1975, in response to a marathon series of filibusters by Senator James Allen—the segregationist Democrat who had taught Helms how to filibuster—reformers lowered the cloture threshold from two-thirds to three-fifths, or the sixty votes

> The silent filibuster is also a result of leaders coming to rely on what are known as “unanimous consent” agreements, or UCs. … Facing enormous workloads and reliant on UCs, leaders got in the habit of canvassing their caucuses ahead of time to see if anyone objected to a bill or nomination they were considering bringing to the floor. Again, this had a benefit to the leader: it was an early-warning system that alerted them to a senator’s intent to filibuster. But again, it damaged the institution: to deter a leader from moving forward, all a senator had to do was signal their intent to filibuster. This is what is now known as placing a “hold.”

> An early series of regulatory rollbacks was executed using the Congressional Review Act, which established a special category of time-limited legislation that is immune to filibusters (the CRA is not of much use to progressives, since it’s only particularly useful for undoing laws and regulations); the CRA bills passed on simple-majority votes. Republicans’ tax reform bill passed through another special procedure called budget reconciliation, which is also immune to filibusters ( )
  breic | Feb 4, 2021 |
näyttää 5/5
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