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Explaining The American Filibuster

If high-school government class taught us anything, it’s that getting bills passed through Congress is a game of numbers: The bill with the most votes wins.

Turns out it’s not that simple. These days, the polarized state of American politics means that major bills need at least 60 votes to avoid an inevitable filibuster by the opposition.

Political scientist Gregory Koger’s new book, Filibustering: A Political History of Obstruction in the House and Senate, addresses the institutionalization of the filibuster — and describes congressional loopholes by way of which fast thinking and hard work can beat the numbers. Koger teaches American politics at the University of Miami. He joins host Terry Gross for a conversation about what has happened to simple majority rule.

Listen to Koger discuss the filibuster in an interview with Terry Gross

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