Filibusters ain’t what they used to be


Sen. Strom Thurmond, D-S.C., waves as he leaves the Senate chamber at end of his 24 hour, 18-minute one-man filibuster on the floor. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

But Paul’s filibuster, which finished just shy of 13 hours, didn’t come close to the legendary filibusters — starting with Jimmy Stewart in “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” who was depicted as having spoken nearly 24 hours, though the 1939 movie only ran a bit more than two hours.

The record filibuster goes, of course, to former South Carolina Sen. Strom Thurmond in opposing the 1957 civil rights bill. Thurmond, then a Democrat, held the floor for 24 hours and 18 minutes.

But there were some others, according to the Associated Press and the Senate Web site, who came close to his record or at least rambled on endlessly.

Sen. Alfonse D’Amato (R-N.Y.) nearly matched Thurmond, speaking for 23 hours and 30 minutes as he tried to block a military spending bill in 1986. He also held forth for 15 hours and 14 minutes against a tax bill in 1992.

Sen. Wayne Morse (I-Ore.), held the floor for 22 hours and 26 minutes as he tried to block an oil bill in 1953.

Sen. Robert M. La Follette, Sr. (R-Wis.), only spoke for 18 hours and 23 minutes when he was trying to block a currency bill in 1908.

Sen. William Proxmire (D-Wis.) held the floor for 16 hours and 12 minutes as he tried to block an increase in the debt ceiling in 1981. (Ah, the debt ceiling.)


The late senator Huey Long after his talk marathon in the Senate in 1935. (Stan Opotowsky/FILE PHOTO)

And the late Sen. Bob Byrd (D-W.Va.) endured for 14 hours and 13 minutes in opposition to the civil rights bill.

It could be it’s harder to go that long these days. In the old days, lawmakers might have read from the telephone book, but we don’t have them so much these days. Maybe they could read their Twitter feeds?

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993.
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