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Lauren C. Bell is Professor of Political Science and Dean of Academic Affairs at Randolph-Macon College, in Ashland, Virginia. Dr. Bell holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the College of Wooster (Ohio) and Masters of Arts and Doctor of Philosophy degrees from the Carl Albert Congressional Research and Studies Center at The University of Oklahoma. She is a former American Political Science Association Congressional Fellow (1997-98) on the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary and a former United States Supreme Court fellow (2006-07) at the United States Sentencing Commission in Washington, DC. Dr. Bell is the author of Filibustering in the U.S. Senate (Cambria Press, 2011), Warring Factions: Interest Groups, Money, and the New Politics of Senate Confirmation (The Ohio State University Press, 2002) and The U.S. Congress, A Simulation for Students (Thomson/Wadsworth, 2005) as well as co-author of Slingshot: The Defeat of Eric Cantor (Congressional Quarterly Press, 2015) and Perspectives on Political Communication: A Case Approach (Allyn & Bacon, 2008). In addition to these books, Bell has published single- and co-authored articles in several peer-reviewed journals, including the Journal of Politics, Political Research Quarterly, The Journal of Legislative Studies, The Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, and Judicature; previously, she served on the editorial board of Justice System Journal. Her work has also appeared in or been cited by The New York Times, Newsweek.com, The Washington Post, Roll Call, The National Journal, The Huffington Post, Foreign Affairs.com, Wisconsin Public Radio, Share Radio (London), the Canadian Press, the London School of Economics and Political Science’s American Politics and Policy Blog and The Richmond Times-Dispatch. Dr. Bell joined the faculty at Randolph-Macon in Fall 1999 and served as Associate Dean of the College from Fall 2007 until her appointment in 2014 as Dean of Academic Affairs. She was a visiting scholar at Keio University in Tokyo, Japan during November and December 2015.
Comparative Legislative Systems
In legislative institutions, time is a precious and scarce commodity. The ability of leaders to set the agenda and enact their preferred policies depends in large part on having sufficient time to accomplish their goals. As a result, disruptions to the agenda and delays in processing legislation can have a significant impact on the ability of legislative majorities to realize success. Nowhere is this more evident than in the United States, particularly in the U.S. Senate, where the action of a single senator can derail a proposal preferred by a sizable majority. Yet, despite conventional wisdom to suggest that obstruction is largely an American phenomenon, the U.S. is not the only location where members of the national legislature use obstructive tactics in an effort to thwart the majority’s preferred outcomes. Few previous studies have systematically examined parliamentary obstruction in non-U.S. settings, despite evidence that dilatory behavior occurs in a number of parliaments around the world. In this paper, I report on the results of two surveys of members of the Association of Secretaries General of Parliaments--one conducted by Joseph Buecker in 1988 and the other that I conducted in 2016--that inquired into the use and control of obstruction in parliaments around the world. The results demonstrate that obstruction occurs in a variety of types of national legislatures and across different political systems. Where obstruction does not occur, it is frequently because the legislature has adopted explicit rules that prevent it and punish legislators that attempt to delay. The results further indicate that obstructive behavior is more universal than the conventional wisdom suggests.
Despite a historic lack of success, members of Congress,motivated by the desire to express policy preferences and to represent the views of their constituents, continue to introduce bills to reduce or eliminate the power of the federal judiciary.
This paper contributes to the growing empirical literature on filibusters by examining the factors that are associated with individual-level filibustering behavior. We focus particularly on the behavior of senators in the latter part of their careers, using impending retirement as analytical leverage to determine whether decisions to engage or not in dilatory parliamentary practices are driven more by narrowly drawn considerations of instrumental utility or by compliance with institutional norms of deference and cooperation. Using data from 1975 to 1993 and employing multivariate models that allow us to control for other relevant factors, we find only limited support for a narrowly rational model of Senate “followership.” In the course of our enquiry, we clarify the notion of legislative norms, integrate our study with recent interdisciplinary scholarship on the evolution of cooperative behavior and consider how leadership can be exercised in environments largely bereft of formal leadership resources.
Legislators have long recognized that delaying tactics are powerful tools for preventing the passage of laws they deem unsatisfactory. Because the U.S. Congress has several deadlines built into its session, when committee chairmen or individual members delay the scheduling of hearings, markups, or executive business meetings, it can have a devastating effect on pending legislation. The tactic of delay is now being used by the Senate Judiciary Committee and individual senators to stall confirmation of the President's judicial nominations. Since 1996, the average length of time between an individual's nomination to serve as a federal judge and the time that he or she is confirmed has increased dramatically. At the same time, some nominations still proceed very quickly through the confirmation process. This article explores the question of why some nominees are subjected to lengthy delays, while others move through the Senate confirmation process in a matter of days. Specifically, it explores the impact of divided government, institutional strength of the President, and the majority party in the Senate, the position to which an individual has been nominated, and a number of nominee-specific variables to assess the impact that these have on the length of time a nominee will wait for confirmation.
Incumbents don't lose. So how did nationally prominent House Majority Leader Eric Cantor lose a primary battle to college professor David Brat, an unknown political rookie? In Slingshot: The Defeat of Eric Cantor, authors Lauren Cohen Bell, David Elliot Meyer and Ronald Keith Gaddie take advantage of exceptional behind-the-scenes access to the Brat campaign to explain the challenger’s victory. They examine the essential need for elected officials to maintain strong support in their home districts and just how Cantor’s focus on climbing the party ranks in Washington contributed to his loss. They also show how local “rules of the game” —particularly voter mobilization in this case—affect elections, and they explore the continuing impact of the Tea Party and its role in the factionalism of current Southern politics.
This book remedies the near-complete lack of individual senator-level data available to scholars. Moreover, the dataset that Bell compiles represents a much more comprehensive list of Senate filibusters than any that has previously been compiled. Data are available for the entirety of the period from 1790 to 2008. The text provides a fully current (through the end of the 110th Congress) list of Senate filibusters from the first recorded instance in 1790. This new list undergirds a comprehensive historical analysis of filibusters and a full exploration of both micro-level (individual senator) determinants of filibustering and macro-level (institutional) factors that affect filibustering and its consequences. Beyond compiling and sharing the raw data on who filibusters what, Bell demonstrates that senators' filibustering behavior is frequently an extension of senators' legislative behavior more generally. The book makes it clear that filibustering is simply one strategy among many that senators employ as they try to advance their sometimes competing goals of representing their constituents, serving their political parties, and crafting good legislation. Building on work by Franklin L. Burdette (1940), Richard S. Beth (1994), and Gregory Wawro and Eric Schickler (2006). Filibustering in the US Senate offers a readable, accessible analysis that clarifies the meaning of important terms and offers practical insights into the uses-and abuses-of Senate legislative procedures. The timeliness of Filibustering in the US Senate, its interesting subject matter, and the accessible nature of the analysis will appeal to general and professional readers of political studies, as well as to practitioners in government.
Warring Factions focuses on the United States Senate's confirmation process, the constitutional process the Senate uses to approve or reject the president's choices to fill federal government positions. It is a book about history, the evolution, and, argubly, the decline of the process. Most significantly, it is a book that demonstrates the extent to which interest groups and money have transformed the Senate's confirmation process into a virtual circus. Based on in-depth research, including two dozen original interviews with United States senators, former senators and Senate staff members and interest group leaders, this volume demonstrates that today's confirmation process is nothing more than an extension of the Senate's legislative work. Changes to internal Senate norms in the 1960s and 1970s, coupled with changes to the external political environment, have allowed interest groups to dominate the Senate confirmation process.
Eliminating the supermajority cloture requirement, as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has indicated he will do in order to confirm Judge Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court, will further harm the Senate as an institution and reduce its capacity to function as an essential part of our government.
The death late last week of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has further complicated the 2016 presidential race and threatened to bring even more gridlock to Washington DC with Republican Senate leaders pledging not to confirm any nominee sent to them by President Obama to replace Scalia. Lauren Bell looks at the battle that Obama administration now faces in getting a nominee confirmed, but also argues that a protracted nomination fight might end up working against the Republican Party in an election year.