As this blog has noted, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky, is currently engaged in a rare talking filibuster on the Senate floor right now to protest the administration’s policy on drone strikes on US soil. How long will he have to speak to compare to the chamber’s historic talking filibusters? A long, long time.
The senator started speaking at 11:47 am. He is already showing some signs of wear. “My throat is already dry and I just started,” Paul said at 12:55 pm.
The longest modern one-senator filibuster was done by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., back in 2010. Sanders spoke starting at 10:25 am on Dec. 10 and kept on going until 7 pm, putting it at 8 hours and 37 minutes.
That was nothing compared to some of the historic filibusters though. The record until 1957 was held by Sen. Wayne Morse, D-Ore., in 1953 of 22 hours and 26 minutes. His record was shattered by South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond is 1957. That’s him pictured above during his filibuster.
Thurmond, then a Democrat (he later switched to the Republicans), began speaking on the Senate floor at 8:54 pm on August 28 to stop a civil rights bill he opposed. Thurmond did not relinquish the floor until 9:12 pm the following day.
He held the floor for 24 hours, 18 minutes.
How did Thurmond do it? In a word, preparation. He sat in a steam room earlier in the day to dehydrate himself. That way, when he drank, he wouldn’t have to go to the bathroom as quickly.
An Associated Press story after Thurmond’s death in 2003 noted:
The senator, armed with throat lozenges and malted milk tablets, recited the voting rights laws of every state to show adequate protection existed. He also recited the Declaration of Independence and launched into a history of Anglo-Saxon juries to counter the bill’s proposal to allow judges to punish cases of civil contempt without a jury trial.
“Thurmond’s effort was a lesson in voice conservation,” the AP reported. “At times he spoke so quietly that he appeared to be mumbling to himself. At other times his voice rang loud and clear across the Senate floor.”
Though most Southerners did not help him, Northern senators at times asked Thurmond questions so he could rest his voice. Some minor infractions of Senate rules also were overlooked so he could keep the floor. He was allowed to sit while others made short remarks. During one interruption, Thurmond even gobbled a sandwich in the cloakroom.
Thurmond hoped that once word got out about his filibuster, Southerners would rally and urge their own senators on, Cohodas wrote. But the marathon talk swayed no votes and Thurmond wound down and “finished strong,” the AP reported.
Incidentally, he failed. The bill passed, 62-15, two hours after Thurmond finished.
To beat Thurmond’s record, Paul will have to speak until 12:14 pm tomorrow.