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(J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press)

David Shribman

Beneath the U.S. Senate’s hood, things have gone terribly wrong

There’s nothing more forbidding, more inscrutable, more frustrating, than a political wrangle over legislative procedure. There is a very good reason the audio-book edition of Robert’s Rules of Order is out of print.

This summer the United States Senate is embroiled in one of those legislative-procedure battles that make the eyes glaze over and the mind reel. But deep inside that conflict – it is a fight over the rules for a filibuster – is an issue as old as the country and as enduring as politics itself: who prevails when one faction is determined to do something and another, sometimes smaller and but occasionally larger, is just as determined to make sure that something doesn’t come to pass.