Skip to content
Grist home
Support nonprofit news

Articles by Mimi Marziani

Mimi Murray Digby Marziani serves as counsel for the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program where she works primarily on campaign finance issues. Her political commentary has appeared in U.S. News and World Report and The National Law Journal, she is a frequent contributor to the Brennan Center’s blog.

Featured Article

(As delivered at Netroots Nation, 24 July 2010.)

Debates about Senate procedural reform very often have constitutional undertones. For instance, at a recent hearing on filibuster reform before the Senate Rules Committee, Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts (R) argued: “The founding fathers had the foresight to create an institution that was not based on majority rule, but where each state … [has] two Senators to speak out on their behalf. It is that power to speak, the right to unlimited debate that is the hallmark of the Senate.”1 Similarly, the late Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) recently stated: “Our Founding Fathers intended the Senate to be a continuing body that allows for open and unlimited debate and [for] the protection of minority rights. Senators have understood this since the Senate first convened.”2

Statements like these generally support one of the following constitutional claims. The first is that senators with strong, minority-held viewpoints have a constitutional right to prolong debate, even indefinitely. A related, more nuanced, argument begins by pointing out that our Founders envisioned the Senate as a careful, deliberative b... Read more