Rand Paul’s Filibuster Way Short of the Record

Rand Paul (Source: Gage Skidmore (CC))

Rand Paul (Source: Gage Skidmore (CC))

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul’s filibuster is a welcome change from the current rules which allow a senator to simply state that he or she wishes to filibuster. It takes 60 votes to break that filibuster threat. That is why it takes a super majority (60 votes) instead of a simple majority (51 votes) to pass anything that is remotely controversial.

The Senate needs filibuster reform. It needs to be changed to the way it was before a 1970s’ rule change allowed filibustering to become so easy.

Paul’s filibuster was an attempt to get the Obama administration to admit that it doesn’t have the constitutional authority to kill Americans on U.S. soil through drones or other means. Paul’s right. Now if only Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder can brush up on their constitutional understanding instead of following the Bush-Cheney interpretation of the Constitution. That thinking is pretty close to Richard Nixon’s “When the president does it, that means that it is not illegal.”

The Washington Post compared Rand’s filibuster with some of the long ones in history. Rand comes up short of the record held by Strom Thurmond, but at least he has reminded us what a real filibuster is.

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.)

Sen. Huey Long (D-La.), back in the ‘30’s, filibustered bills that he thought favored the rich over the poor. Long, who entertained spectators by reciting Shakespeare and reading recipes for fried oysters and “pot likkers” — the liquid left behind after boiling greens — filibustered for 15 hours and 30 minutes in 1935, require Senate confirmation for some New Deal employees.

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