It's the world's greatest deliberative body, the most exclusive club. And, sometimes, the U.S. Senate is just another weird place.
For 30 years, C-SPAN's unblinking cameras have captured all of it. Thursday is the station's 30th anniversary of filming the floor of the Senate. As my colleague Paul Kane describes, senators initially were wary of allowing cameras in, concerned about how it would promote grandstanding over deal-making.
For the most part, however, the Senate has gone on as usual with us watching: slow, arcane, even boring.
But there have been some pretty memorable Senate floor moments that C-SPAN captured on film that we wouldn't have seen otherwise. With the help of the C-SPAN team, we collected six of them, in order of least to most memorable. Here they are:
6. Harry Reid, Mitch McConnell have a fireside chat about baseball
If there's one thing that can bring Washington — which is still very much a boys club — together, it's probably baseball. One fine summer day in 2010, none other than the Senate's majority and minority leaders spent a full 6 ½ minutes of official Senate time on the floor trading gossip and stories about the Washington Nationals. Hyped pitcher Stephen Strasburg had just had a fantastic major league debut, pitching 14 strikeouts and setting a new team record. Then-Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) praised Strasburg, and then-Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) (their roles have since switched) did the same when it was his turn to talk. The two went back and forth for a while.
"What one could conclude from this," McConnell says, "is that next year, when the Senate is not in session in the evening, both the Republican and Democratic leaders will be at baseball games."
5. Robert Byrd takes on dog fighting with a roar
"Barbaric!" the late senator Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) thundered on the Senate floor one day in July 2007. The 89-year-old senator raised his written speech above his head, waving the papers: "Let that word resound from hill to hill and from mountain to mountain, from valley to valley across this broad land. May God help those poor souls who would be so cruel. Hear me! Barbaric!" His voice cracking at times and fighting back tears, Byrd went on to slowly, methodically detail the horrors of dog fighting, which had come to light a few months earlier when National Football League player Michael Vick was implicated in an illegal multi-state dog-fighting ring being operated at his home. (Vick pleaded guilty and served almost two years in prison.)
It was an unusually emotional speech for the Senate's then-longest-serving and well-respected member. And his display of emotion went over pretty well in the normally stale chamber, CBS News reported at the time:
When he finished, Massachusetts Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, who sometimes brings his Portuguese water dogs to work, said, "Great speech, Bob." As Byrd left the chamber, a Senate page and TV reporter shook his hand and thanked him, and a young woman had her photo taken with him.
4. Rand Paul asks for some candy during his filibuster
Hey, even U.S. senators need a snack. Especially senators in the middle of a nearly 13-hour filibuster. In March 2013, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) seized the floor to protest U.S. drone policy. He ended up giving the longest talking filibuster in recent memory. Paul stayed on his feet and in the Senate chamber the whole time, but his colleagues helped him out by taking the stage for a few minutes when they could. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) was doing just that when Paul, his microphone still on, was heard whispering to an aide: "Can you get some candy?"
3. Ted Cruz reads his daughters a bedtime story
Later that year, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) also seized the Senate floor to draw attention to a cause. Some people say it wasn't quite a filibuster, because he couldn't technically stop the legislation before him — funding the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare. But Cruz did talk for an impressive 21 hours. To fill it, he veered off topic every once in a while. He chatted to no one in particular about how much he likes White Castle burgers, Ashton Kutcher, "Duck Dynasty," the shower scene in "Psycho" and doing Darth Vader impressions. But the highlight of his speech was probably reading a bedtime story to his two daughters, then ages 5 and 2, who he said were watching at home: Dr. Seuss's "Green Eggs and Ham."
2. Rand Paul fist-bumps Harry Reid
Because, why not? In April 2015, the Senate had just finished passing a bill to combat human trafficking on a unanimous vote. Paul sashayed up to the front of the Senate floor, slipped on his Ray-Ban sunglasses and casually offered Reid a fist-bump. Reid, who busy counting votes and was wearing sunglasses of his own because of an eye injury, looked up and accepted it.
1. Jim Inhofe throws a snowball
Climate-change activists have this clip on repeat, ready to fire off anytime a Republican denies climate change exists and/or is man-made. "You know what this?" asks Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) in February 2015, holding up a tightly packed snowball fresh from a recent, late-season storm. It's very, very cold out, Inhofe goes on to say, indicating that the presence of snow should discredit anyone who thinks that the planet is warming irreparably. "Here, Mr. President, catch this." And he tosses it off camera. Onto the Senate floor.