5 Longest Filibusters in U.S. Senate History

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) took to the Senate floor on Wednesday to participate in an active filibuster of President Obama’s nominee for director of the Central Intelligence Agency, John Brennan. Paul’s remarks began at 11:47 a.m. EST, and lasted nearly 13 hours.

Why was Paul filibustering?

As reported by Mother Jones, Attorney General Eric Holder confirmed to Paul that he does believe that there are circumstances under which drone assassinations on American soil could be constitutional:

"The question you have posed is therefore entirely hypothetical, unlikely to occur, and one we hope no president will ever have to confront. It is possible, I suppose, to imagine an extraordinary circumstance in which it would be necessary and appropriate under the Constitution and applicable laws of the United States for the President to authorize the military to use lethal force within the territory of the United States. For example, the president could conceivably have no choice but to authorize the military to use such force if necessary to protect the homeland in the circumstances like a catastrophic attack like the ones suffered on December 7, 1941, and September 11, 2001."

Paul responded in a statement:

“The U.S. Attorney General’s refusal to rule out the possibility of drone strikes on American citizens and on American soil is more than frightening – it is an affront the Constitutional due process rights of all Americans.”

Game on, baby. 

Paul announced just before 12 p.m. on Wednesdat that he would speak "for the next few hours" during the floor debate on the nomination of John Brennan to the post of CIA director. He ended up holding the floor deep into the night.

But who holds the record for the longest filibusters?

The longest filibusters in American political history can be measured in hours, not minutes. They were conducted on the floor of the Senate during charged debates on civil rights,public debt and the military. 

In a filibuster, a senator may continue to speak indefinitely to prevent a final vote on the bill. Some read the phone book, cite recipes for fried oysters, or read the Declaration of Independence.

Here are the top 5:

1. Sen. Strom Thurmond

The record for the longest filibuster goes to U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmondof South Carolina, who spoke for 24 hours and 18 minutes against ... the Civil Rights Act of 1957 of all things. This record is according to Senate records.

Thurmond began speaking at 8:54 p.m. on Aug. 28 and continued until 9:12 p.m. the following evening, reciting the Declaration of Independence, Bill of Rights, President George Washington's farewell address and other historical documents along the way.

Thurmond was not the only lawmaker to filibuster on the issue, however. According to Senate records, teams of senators consumed 57 days filibustering between March 26 and June 19, the day the Civil Rights Act of 1957 passed.

2. Sen. Alfonse D'Amato

The second longest filibuster was conducted by Sen. Alfonse D'Amato of New York, who spoke for 23 hours and 30 minutes to stall debate on an important military bill in 1986.

D'Amato was incensed about an amendment the bill that would have cut off funding for a jet trainer plane built by a company hedquartered in New York, according to published reports.

This was only D'Amato's most famous and longest filibusters, though.

In 1992, D'Amato held forth on a "gentleman's filibuster" for 15 hours and 14 minutes. He was holding up a pending $27 billion tax bill, and quit his filibuster only after the House of Representatives had adjourned for the year, meaning the legislation had died.

3. Sen. Wayne Morse

Sen. Wayne Morse of Oregon, was nicknamed "the Tiger of the Senate" because of his tendency to thrive on controversy, and he certainly lived up to that moniker. He was known to speak well into the night on a daily basis when the Senate was in session.

Morse spoke for 22 hours and 26 minutes to stall debate on the Tidelands Oil bill in 1953, according to Senate archives.

4. Sen. Robert La Follette Sr.

Sen. Robert La Follette Sr. of Wisconsin spoke for 18 hours and 23 minutes to stall debate in 1908.

Senate archives described La Follette as a "fiery progressive senator," a "stem-winding orator and champion of family farmers and the laboring poor."

The fourth longest filibuster halted debate on the Aldrich-Vreeland currency bill, which permitted the Treasury to lend currency to banks during fiscal crises, according to Senate records.

5. Sen. William Proxmire

Sen. William Proxmire of Wisconsin spoke for 16 hours and 12 minutes to stall debate on an increase of the public debt ceiling in 1981.

Proxmire was concerned about the nation's rising debt level. The bill he wanted to stall action on authorizing a total debt of $1 trillion.

Proxmire held forth from 11 a.m. on Sept. 28 through 10:26 a.m. the following day. And though his fiery speech earned him widespread attention, his marathon filibuster came back to haunt him.

His detractors in the Senate pointed out taxpayers were paying tens of thousands of dollars to keep the chamber open all night for his speech.

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