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[US Politics] Filibuster

James Stewart in "Mr Smith goes to Washington", 1939.

James Stewart in “Mr Smith goes to Washington”, 1939.

Yesterday, my 16 year old son was astonished to read that U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who recently entered the race to the White House, talked out for more than 21 hours in 2013 on budget compromise against Obamacare.

Such obstruction is called filibustering, also known as “talking out a bill” or “talking a bill to death.”

The origins

A filibuster is a parliamentary procedure where debate is extended, allowing one or several members to delay or entirely prevent a vote on a given proposal. It characterizes as a form of obstruction in a legislature or other decision-making body. The English term “filibuster” is derived from the Spanish filibustero, itself deriving from the Dutch vrijbuiter, meaning “pirate”, “robber”.

The term in its legislative sense was first used by Rep. Albert G. Brown, D-MS, in 1853, referring to Abraham Watkins Venable’s speech against “filibustering” intervention in Cuba.


In the early years of Congress, representatives as well as senators could filibuster. As the House of Representatives grew in numbers, however, revisions to the House rules limited debate. The rules to stop a filibuster changed several times over the time. In 1917, senators adopted a rule (Rule 22) that allowed the Senate to end a debate with a two-thirds majority vote, a device known as “cloture.” Even with the new cloture rule, filibusters remained an effective means to block legislation, since a two-thirds vote is difficult to obtain. Over the next five decades, the Senate occasionally tried to invoke cloture, but usually failed to gain the necessary two-thirds vote. Filibusters were particularly useful to Southern senators who sought to block civil rights legislation, including anti-lynching legislation, until cloture was invoked after a 60 day filibuster against the Civil Right Act of 1964. In 1975, the Senate reduced the number of votes required for cloture from two-thirds to three-fifths, or 60 of the current one hundred senators.

The 5 Most Famous Filibusters

1. U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond, 1957 — Filibuster length: 24 hours, 18 minutes

Sen. Strom Thurmond, R-S.C. spoke for 24 hours and 18 minutes, reciting the Declaration of Independence, Bill of Rights, President George Washington’s farewell address and other historical documents along the way, before concluding with the line, “I expect to vote against the bill.”

2. U.S. Sen. Alfonse D’Amato, 1986 — Filibuster length: 23 hours, 30 minutes

U.S. Sen. Alfonse D’Amato of New York spoke for 23 hours and 30 minutes to stall debate on an important military bill. It was but one of 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, and quit his filibuster only after the House of Representatives had adjourned for the year, meaning the legislation had died.

3. U.S. Sen. Wayne Morse, 1953 — Filibuster length: 22 hours, 26 minutes

U.S. Sen. Wayne Morse of Oregon spoke for 22 hours and 26 minutes to stall debate on the Tidelands Oil bill, according to U.S. Senate archives.

4. U.S. Sen. Robert La Follette Sr., 1908 — Filibuster length: 18 hours, 23 minutes

U.S. Sen. Robert La Follette Sr. of Wisconsin spoke for 18 hours and 23 minutes to stall debate on the Aldrich-Vreeland currency bill, which permitted the U.S. Treasury to lend currency to banks during fiscal crises, according to Senate records.

5.  U.S. Sen. William Proxmire, 1981 –Filibuster length: 16 hours, 12 minutes

U.S. Sen. William Proxmire of Wisconsin spoke for 16 hours and 12 minutes to stall debate on an increase of the public debt ceiling. He was concerned about the nation’s rising debt level. The bill he wanted to stall action on authorizing a total debt of $1 trillion. His detractors in the Senate pointed out that taxpayers were paying tens of thousands of dollars to keep the chamber open all night for his speech.

And now we can add U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who on September 23, 2013 vowed to “speak in support of defunding Obamacare until I am no longer able to stand.” His 21-hour and 19-minute filibuster allowed him to enter at the fourth rank of the most famous and longest filibusters!

Source: United States Senate

Happy Independence Day!

Independence Day is annually celebrated on July 4 and is often known as “the Fourth of July”. It is the anniversary of the publication of the declaration of independence from Great Britain in 1776.

A bit of history

The Declaration of Independence

The Declaration of Independence

In 1775, people in New England began fighting the British for their independence. On July 2, 1776, the Congress secretly voted for independence from Great Britain. The Declaration of Independence was first published two days later on July 4, 1776. The first public reading of the Declaration of Independence was on July 8, 1776. Delegates began to sign the Declaration of Independence on August 2, 1776. In 1870, Independence Day was made an unpaid holiday for federal employees. In 1941, it became a paid holiday for them.

The first description of how Independence Day would be celebrated was in a letter from John Adams to his wife Abigail on July 3, 1776. He described “pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations” throughout the United States. However, the term “Independence Day” was not used until 1791.

Interestingly, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, both signers of the Declaration of Independence and presidents of the United States, died on July 4, 1826 – exactly 50 years after the adoption of the declaration. It is also important to note that Native Americans lived in the country and each tribe had its own nation and government prior to the European settlers.


What do people do on July 4th?

Children at a parade on Independence Day

Children at a parade on Independence Day

It is a day of family celebrations with picnics and barbecues, showing a great deal of emphasis on the American tradition of political freedom. Activities associated with the day include watermelon or hotdog eating competitions and sporting events, such as baseball games, three-legged races, swimming activities and tug-of-war games.

Many people display the American flag outside their homes or buildings. Many communities arrange fireworks that are often accompanied by patriotic music. The most impressive fireworks are shown on television. Some employees use one or more of their vacation days to create a long weekend so that they can escape the heat at their favorite beach or vacation spot.

Independence Day is a patriotic holiday for celebrating the positive aspects of the United States. Many politicians appear at public events to show their support for the history, heritage and people of their country. Above all, people in the United States express and give thanks for the freedom and liberties fought by the first generation of many of today’s Americans.


Symbols of July 4th

Fireworks over downtown Miami

Fireworks over downtown Miami

The most common Independence Day symbol is the American flag. Its design is displayed in all possible ways on July 4 and can be seen in front of homes and buildings. Other symbols associated with Independence Day are the Statue of Liberty on Ellis Island in New York and the fireworks viewed all over the United States.