March 22, 2021

Ending the Filibuster to Save America with Adam Jentleson

Critical legislation on issues ranging from racial justice, the Equal Rights Amendment, gun violence prevention, economic justice, LGBTQIA rights, and so much more are at risk of dying in the senate because of the tyranny of the minority. The filibuster, an accident of the senate rules, is holding the chamber hostage, turning a majority-rule body into an arena of obstructionism.

To discuss the filibuster and efforts to do away with it, we invited Adam Jentleson on to the show. Adam served as Deputy Chief of Staff to Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, where he advised on strategy and led one of the largest and most diverse communications teams on Capitol Hill during the Obama administration. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Politico Magazine. His new book Kill Switch: The Rise of the Modern Senate and the Crippling of American Democracy is now available.

Praise For Kill Switch: The Rise Of The Modern Senate And The Crippling Of American Democracy

Adam Jentleson’s Kill Switch is the most exquisitely timed book I’ve encountered in years. Jentleson’s explanation of the filibuster’s ignominious roots, and of the mendacious arguments made today by its defenders, is careful and thorough and exacting. Every senator should be forced to read it and then reread it.

— Michael Tomasky – New York Review of Books

[An] excellent, surprising new book . . . Jentleson is knowledgeable and adept, offering an account of increasingly flagrant obstruction that culminates in the age of McConnell.

— Benjamin Wallace-Wells – The New Yorker

An impeccably timed book. . . . In Kill Switch, Jentleson explains how ‘the world’s greatest deliberative body’ has come to carry out its work without much greatness or even deliberation, serving instead as a place where ambitious legislation goes to die. . . . [Jentleson’s] intimacy with the Senate turns out to be his book’s greatest strength. Jentleson understands the inner workings of the institution, down to the most granular details, showing precisely how arcane procedural rules can be leveraged to dramatic effect.

— Jennifer Szalai – New York Times

[L]eading Democrats, including Reid and former president Barack Obama, are pressing for a sweeping rehab of the “home” Biden has found so comfortable. Kill Switch: The Rise of the Modern Senate and the Crippling of American Democracy, a new book by Adam Jentleson, makes for a powerful brief on their behalf… a compelling read.

— Kathy Kiely – Washington Post

[A]n important new book… Adam Jentleson offers a harrowing portrait of how anti-majoritarian dysfunction has paralyzed the U.S. Senate… he writes with an insider’s knowledge… As the Senate has deviated further and further from majoritarian norms, the House and the state legislatures have followed. Among the great merits of Jentleson’s Kill Switch is that it reminds us how recent this trend is.

— David Frum – The Atlantic

[P]erfectly timed… authoritative and well-documented.

— Lloyd Green – The Guardian

[A] powerful historical account.

— Julian Zelizer –


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Sources for audio clips

Republicans 'will try to use filibuster as much as possible,' says political expert - CNBC International TV
Sen. Mitch McConnell on COVID relief, election reform and the filibuster rule - PBS Newshour
Joe Manchin Yells at Reporter: I'll NEVER Support Ending Filibuster!!! - The Young Turks
Raw: Sen. Cruz Reads "Green Eggs and Ham" - AP
Filibuster Explained
What Is A Filibuster? - Now This World
Racism in Filibuster
Rep. Clyburn Says Congress Can’t Let Filibuster Prevent Voting Rights Legislation | MSNBC
This is why Mitch McConnell calls himself the 'Grim Reaper' - CNN
Juducial Filibuster
From the Vault: Senate Democrats invoke the nuclear option in 2013
Manchin and Filibuster
Joe Manchin Yells at Reporter: I'll NEVER Support Ending Filibuster!!! - The Young Turks
DC Statehood
House approves DC statehood, Senate opposed - AP
Budget Reconciliation
What is Senate Reconciliation?
Warren: End the filibuster to stop McConnell

Show Credits

Host: Alyssa Milano
Executive Producer: Alyssa Milano
Associate Producer: Ben Jackson
Editing and Sound Production: Natasha Jacobs
Music by: Josh Cooke & Eleisha Eagle