Pre-mRNA splicing is catalyzed by the large ribonucleoprotein spliceosome. Spliceosome assembly is a highly dynamic process in which the complex transitions through a number of intermediates. Recently, the potent anti-tumor compound Spliceostatin A (SSA) was shown to inhibit splicing and to interact with an essential component of the spliceosome, SF3b. However, it was unclear whether SSA directly impacts the spliceosome and, if so, by what mechanism, which limits interpretation of the drugs influence on splicing. Here, we report that SSA inhibits pre-mRNA splicing by interfering with the spliceosome subsequent to U2 snRNP addition. We demonstrate that SSA inhibition of spliceosome assembly requires ATP, key pre-mRNA splicing sequences and intact U1 and U2 snRNAs. Furthermore all five U snRNAs in addition to the SSA molecule associate with pre-mRNA during SSA inhibition. Kinetic analyses reveal that SSA impedes the A to B complex transition. Remarkably, our data imply that, in addition to its established function in early U2 snRNP recruitment, SF3b plays a role in later maturation of spliceosomes. This work establishes SSA as a powerful tool for dissecting the dynamics of spliceosomes in cells. In addition our data will inform the design of synthetic splicing modulator compounds for targeted anti-tumor treatment.