Six famous filibusters (and a bonus -- a recipe for fried oysters)
In March, the Republican senator from Kentucky held a 13-hour filibuster to protest the nomination of John Brennan as CIA director. Speaking from the Senate floor, he also took the Obama administration to task for its drone program, saying:
“I rise today to begin to filibuster John Brennan’s nomination for the CIA. I will speak until I can no longer speak. I will speak as long as it takes, until the alarm is sounded from coast to coast that our Constitution is important, that your rights to trial by jury are precious, that no American should be killed by a drone on American soil without first being charged with a crime, without first being found to be guilty by a court.”
Commenting on the filibuster, Times columnist Jonah Goldberg wrote: “Paul’s filibuster briefly illuminated some very basic core convictions during a long gray chapter in international affairs, a chapter that isn’t over yet, either. I can think of worse ways to waste 13 hours of the Senate’s time.”
In September, the Republican tea party firebrand from Texas took to the Senate floor for 21 hours, saying he “intended to speak out in defense of defunding Obamacare until I can no longer stand.” But his epic talkathon didn’t count as a formal filibuster because he’d already agreed to a Senate-imposed time limit on his chatter.
Worse, he ended up with egg on his face. Green egg that is. During his speech, he read the Dr. Seuss book “Green Eggs and Ham,” to which Op-Ed contributor Peter Dreier wrote, “He clearly missed its message.” Dreier went on:
“In the Seuss tale, Sam-I-Am, a lover of green eggs and ham, tries to persuade a friend to try them. But the man resists. He resists so persistently and so adamantly that he ends up sounding a lot like the Republicans on Capitol Hill who are determined to defund President Obama’s healthcare law. But in the Seuss story, the man is finally persuaded to try the offending eggs and ham, and, much to his surprise, he loves them.
“If only the GOP would take a page from that book.” (Mark Wilson / Getty Images)
The Republican from North Carolina filibustered for 16 days against making the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday a national holiday. In The Times’ obituary about the man remembered most for blocking progressive policies, Johanna Neuman wrote that “Helms took to the Senate floor to decry the assassinated King, a pacifist and civil rights leader, for his ‘action-oriented Marxism.’ ” Those were the 1980s. Now, in 2013, we’ve got Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz saying, “We need 100 more like Jesse Helms in the U.S. Senate.” Oy. (Los Angeles Times)
The Democrat-turned-Republican from South Carolina stood on the Senate floor (and on the wrong side of history) to oppose the Civil Rights Act of 1957. “Thurmond, subsisting on throat lozenges, malted milk tablets and a steak sandwich, spoke 24 hours and 18 minutes,” recalls USA Today. The bill eventually passed. (Associated Press)
In 1935, the Democrat from Louisiana protested the New Deal bill, whose reforms he thought were inadequate, for 15 1/2 hours. To keep things interesting, he recited Shakespeare, analyzed the Constitution and read recipes for Southern fried oysters and “pot-likkers,” according to senate.gov’s filibuster history lesson. Here are those recipes, care of Motherboard. Enjoy! (File photo)
This 1939 filibuster is probably the most famous -- but that’s because it happened on the big screen in the Academy Award-nominated “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” But as The Times’ editorial board member Jon Healey says: “Forget the romanticized, ‘Mr. Smith Goes to Washington’ vision of the lonely filibusterer talking until he or she topples over from exhaustion. The real power the rule grants is to groups of 41 or more senators, enabling them to keep a debate going indefinitely on a nomination or a piece of legislation. The practical consequence is that any major nominee or bill has to reflect something approaching a consensus to advance. And that’s a good thing.” (Courtesy of A.M.P.A.S. )