Defending the “Soul of the Senate”


August 31, 2012

Richard A. Arenberg, a part-time professor in the Department of Political Science, saw the release of his book, Defending the Filibuster: The Soul of the Senate last weekCo-authored with Robert Dove, the Parliamentarian-Emeritus of the U.S. Senate, the book offers an informed and spirited new defense of the Senate’s tradition of the Filibuster.

The book looks at the history of Senate debate and offers a timely consideration of how its use has been distorted in recent years.  It argues that reforms, not abolishment, are the key to preserving Senate minority party rights.  As Arenberg states, “The Senate is all about protecting the rights of the minority, which is a feature of democracy. And the stick behind that is the filibuster, because the majority knows they just can’t stuff what they want down the throat of the minority. Democracy is more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner, so it’s more than a simple majority question”.

Since the fall of 2009, Professor Arenberg has taught undergraduate and graduate classes on congressional politics and policy at Northeastern University.  Prior to becoming a lecturer here, Arenberg served on Capitol Hill for 34 years in senior Congressional staff positions, as a Chief of Staff and Legislative Director for Majority Leader George Mitchell, and Senators Paul Tsongas and Carl Levin (current Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee).  Arenberg is also currently an adjunct lecturer in public policy at the Taubman Center for Public Policy at Brown University.

Professor Arenberg has discussed the issue of reforming the filibuster in a number of major media outlets in recent months, including The New York Times, The Boston Globe, NPR’s Diane Rehm’s Show, and The Washington Post.  Since publication, the book has been reviewed by Roll Call.  A full listing of reviews and articles on the book can be found here.

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