Vt. senator takes his time - for more than 8 hours
Saturday, December 11, 2010
At 10:24 Friday morning, Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont took to the floor of the Senate to share a few thoughts about the tax-cut plan brokered by President Obama and Republican leaders.
Well after the sun had set and most of his colleagues had flown home, Sanders was still sharing - about taxes, bad trade deals and "the crooks on Wall Street," among many other topics.
"China, China, CHINA!" he yelled at one point, stressing that the $14 trillion national debt was largely being financed by the Chinese government's decision to continue buying U.S. bonds.
By early evening Sanders took to reading letters from constituents who had been hit hard by the Great Recession.
Sanders yielded at times to Democratic colleagues who wanted to speak briefly against the plan, but otherwise he held the floor until nearly 7 p.m., his thick Brooklyn-born accent filling the chamber.
It looked a lot like a good old-fashioned filibuster, only Sanders wasn't actually stopping anything. Under a bipartisan deal reached Thursday, a vote would be held Monday on the tax deal no matter how long Sanders spoke or what he said Friday.
"You can call what I am doing today whatever you want, you it [sic] call it a filibuster, you can call it a very long speech," said Sanders, an independent who caucuses with Democrats. "I'm not here to set any great records or to make a spectacle. I am simply here today to take as long as I can to explain to the American people the fact that we have got to do a lot better than this agreement provides."
The last time any senator spoke as long as Sanders did was in November 2003, when Sen. Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.), then the minority whip, spoke more than nine hours all by himself to protest a proposal by Republicans to eliminate filibusters on judicial nominations. To help fill the hours, Reid even read from his autobiography.
Before that, the only other attempt at an old-school filibuster in the past two decades came from Sen. Alfonse M. D'Amato (R-N.Y.) in 1992, when he spoke for more than 15 hours against a tax provision that would close a typewriter plant in his state. D'Amato sang "South of the Border" at times, protesting how the typewriter plant was headed for Mexico.
As Sanders provided the emotional appeal against the tax deal in the Senate, House Democrats continued discussions about ways to amend the $858 billion package of tax-cut extensions and other efforts aimed at economic stimulus when it crosses the Capitol later next week.
"We are simply here to say that we want a fair deal," said Rep. Donald M. Payne (D-N.J.). "You know, there was the New Deal under Roosevelt, and then there was a Fair Deal under Truman. Every new deal is not necessarily fair, and we see this new deal as not necessarily fair."
Payne was joined by other members of the Congressional Black Caucus - considered President Obama's most loyal backers - who announced that the "vast majority" of caucus members would oppose the plan as it is currently drafted.