Long-Winded: the 5 Most Historical Filibusters of All Time

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If you’ve caught any news coverage of late, you’ve no doubt been bombarded by the word “filibuster.” And no, it isn’t the name of the #12 horse in the fifth at Churchill Downs; it’s in reference to the recent filibuster of Kentucky Senator, Rand Paul. Essentially, when someone wants to delay or even prevent a vote on a particular piece of legislature, they may take the Senate floor and speak for hours on end about the issue in question, or really about anything they want—whatever it takes to obstruct the process from moving forward. It’s an odd and seemingly dated practice in our government, but since it’s inception in the 1840s, it’s proven an effective, albeit exhausting endeavor. These are the 5 most historical filibusters.

5 Harry Reid – 2003

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Senator Harry Reid, a Democrat out of Nevada, makes the cut for using perhaps the most hilarious tactic ever during his 2003 filibuster. In an effort to block the judicial nominations of then President George W. Bush, Reid took to the floor for a period of roughly 9 hours and proceeded to read aloud from a book called “Searchlight.” So why is this so amusing? Because “Searchlight” was written by none other than Senator Harry Reid. Hey, if you’re going to have to speak for 9 hours straight, you might as well get some unabashed self-promotion out of it, right?

4 Alfonse D’Amato – 1992

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In the first significant filibuster since the Senate began televising their proceedings in 1986, New York Republican Senator Alfonse D’Amato got some serious airtime when he took the Senate floor on October 5, 1992. In an effort to block typewriter manufacturer Smith Corona from moving 875 jobs from upstate New York to Mexico, D’Amato staged one of the longest solo filibusters in US Senate history. His stand began in the evening hours and went on well into the next morning, lasting for 15 hours and 14 minutes total, and included him singing “South of the Border (Down Mexico Way),” all in the name of preserving the typewriter industry. Good call, Alfonse.

3 Huey Long – 1935

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Considered by many to be the master of the Senate filibuster, Democratic Louisiana Senator Huey Long truly lived up to his last name. On June 12, 1935, Long took to the Senate floor in an effort to keep his political enemies from obtaining lucrative jobs with the National Recovery Administration. What followed was 15 hours and 30 minutes of Senator Long reading the Constitution in full, taking queries from reporters to which he offered personal advice and sharing his recipes for fried oysters and turnip-green pot liquor. At least in this case, anyone who bothered listening got some good seafood and homemade booze out of it.

2 Strom Thurmond – 1957

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The former Republican Senator from South Carolina passed away in 2003 at the age of 100, but Strom Thurmond still owns the record for the longest filibuster in US history. Over the course of 24 hours and 18 minutes, he killed time by reciting the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, George Washington’s farewell address and even read from the phonebook. Though considering his epic speech was an effort to block the Civil Rights Act of 1957, we can safely assume it’s a record that his family may not exactly be beaming with pride about. It also explains why if you Google his name, “Strom Thurmond racist” is the third most popular search.

1 Rand Paul – 2013

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The Senator from Kentucky was less than satisfied with President Obama’s recent nomination of John Brennan as director of the CIA. In fact, he was so thoroughly disgusted by it that he took to the floor to speak his mind for 13 straight hours. That’s some serious commitment. Amid fears of drones in our skies and the worsening violations of American civil liberties, Rand Paul spoke for longer than most Americans can stay awake. Paul ended his speech by saying he’d have gone on for another 12 hours too, if not for the fact that he had to drop some students off at the reflecting pool, if you know what we mean.

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