The Monkey Cage has featured several comments by Congressional scholars in the wake of the Common Cause lawsuit filed earlier this week. I think all of it is quite accessible for non-academics, but there's a fair amount of it, and there are some disputes that I think go beyond what most reformers are interested in, as fascinating as arguments over the Federal Elections Bill of 1890-1891 and the 1806 decision about the previous question are to some of us. Well, me, anyway. (The links? Here's Greg Koger, Steve Smith, Sarah Binder, and Eric Schickler and Greg Wawro. You may also be interested in my related post earlier this week; I'm not a Senate scholar, but I do try to keep in touch with the literature).
Anyway, if what you really want is the takeaway from all of these scholars, here's what everyone agrees about:
1. The filibuster is Constitutional. As Steve Smith says, "the best interpretation of Art I, Sec 5 is that the matter of Senate rules is to be left the Senate." That's where the Constitution says that "each house may determine the rule of its proceedings."
2. The filibuster can be changed or eliminated by a majority of Senators, contrary to the claims of the Common Cause lawsuit and contrary to what a lot of people -- including some Senators -- say.
That's really all you need to know.
I believe, but I can't say for sure, that each of these scholars would agree that a determined majority could enact changes in filibuster rules at any time, not just at the beginning of a new Congress. I've talked to some of the authors, not all of them, about it, and my sense from that and what they've written is that while there's a fair amount of murkiness about exactly what procedures would be needed to do so, the bottom line is that if a majority wants to do it, they can whenever they choose to do so. That's certainly my belief, and I think it's consistent with the actual showdown over judicial nominations during the Bush administration.
I don't want to steer anyone away from the wonderful posts the Senate experts have been writing (or, for that matter, from my own in-depth analysis of these issues); if you want to understand the Senate, read them! But if you just want the basics, that's it.