A filibuster is a political delaying tactic used in the United States to prolong or block a bill. It is a seemingly endless debating of an issue and has been used hundreds of times since the 1840s. Many of these we've hardly heard about, Many took place before the advent of C-Span. The filibuster's effect on the political process is sometimes obstructive where marathon speechmaking impairs the progress of government work. The word "filibuster" itself is thought to come from the Dutch word " vrijbuiter" which loosely means "pirate". In this way, members who employ filibuster tactics are said to have "pirated" away the spirit of debate in Congress. Following are some of the better known filibusters in U.S. history.
JOHN C. CALHOUN -
The first major filibuster occurred in 1841 when Senator Henry Clay proposed a banking bill that Senator Calhoun opposed. Calhoun is thought to have created the modern filibuster when he began a lengthy and wordy rebuttal much to Clay's disdain. The filibuster lasted two weeks. What's interesting about this filibuster is that Senator Calhoun was notoriously known for his pro-slavery stance and may have introduced the tactic to further his defence of the abominable institution of slavery. Senator Henry Clay opposed the filibuster and rightly so. The filibuster legislation created by Calhoun went on to be used to block any legislation in subsequent years that would protect and garner anti-race discrimination statutes.
ROBERT LA FOLLETTE -
In 1917, Senator Robert La Follette from Wisconsin used a filibuster in opposition to the proposal to arm merchant ships against German submarine attacks. He believed it would lead the U.S. closer to being involved in World War I which he was against. Known as "Fighting Bob", La Follette gave a speech defending free speech in times of war. The filibuster lasted for over 18 hours and was met with talk and threats of expulsion and accusations of treason. When the war ended, pending resolutions of expulsion were dismissed. His filibuster speech became his most famous and he went on to be viewed as one of the U.S. Senate's most outstanding members.
HUEY PIERCE LONG -
Senator Huey Long from Louisiana was known for the most creative and effective use of the filibuster. The colorful and fiery senator was considered a master of Senate filibustering borrowing from Shakespeare and cookbooks to extend the process. In 1935, Long embarked on his longest and most dramatic filibuster. It lasted 15 hours and 30 minutes and had other senators sleeping at their desks. His intention was to force the senate to retain a provision that required Senate confirmation when awarding jobs under the National Recovery Administration. President Franklin Roosevelt was opposed but this didn't stop Senator Long. He wanted to prevent his political enemies in Louisiana from getting the lucrative NRA jobs.
STROM THURMOND -
In 1957, South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond began a 24 hour, 18 minute long tirade hoping to stall voting on the Civil Rights Act of 1957. Thurmond indicated that the bill ensuring ready access to polling booths for black voters was unconstitutional. Southern democrats did not rally behind him as he had hoped and called him a "grandstander". In preparation for his useless filibuster, Thurmond had a steam bath to rid his body of liquid so he would not need to use the bathroom during his speech. In the end, no one was persuaded to change their vote and a weakened version of the Civil Rights Act of 1957 was passed.
ROBERT GRIFFIN -
Michigan Senator Robert Griffin initiated the first filibuster of a Supreme Court pick in 1968. The intention was to forestall and scuttle President Lyndon B. Johnson's nomination of Justice Abe Fortas to Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Republicans thought Fortas too liberal and were hoping the filibuster would drag out the vote until President Johnson's term was up. It worked. Basically, Fortas was defeated by the filibuster and because not enough votes could be mustered, President Johnson withdrew the nomination. Ironically, when Senator Griffin's own son later was nominated for a judicial position in the Bush administration, Democrats threatened to filibuster. Griffin was eventually confirmed on June 9, 2005.
FILIBUSTER QUOTES -
They say women talk too much. If you have ever worked in Congress you know that the filibuster was invented by men. Clare Booth Luce
You know, the purpose of reconciliation is to avoid the filibuster. The filibuster is an effort to talk something to death. Dick Durbin
Please don't ask me to do that which I've just said I am not going to do, because you're burning up time. The meter is running through the sand on you, and I am now filibustering.
President George Bush
There is no Senate rule governing the proper uses of the filibuster. - Tony Snow
Phillip Buster - a poem by Gail DeBole
Phillip Buster could fluster a room -
Full of men whose anger ballooned
When came his turn to speak,
Congress snored for a week,
All dreaming he'd peter out soon.
Here are some other of my Hubs you might want to read -