Longest filibusters – Almost 22 hours after he started, Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas finally ended his oral assault on Obamacare on Wednesday, September 25. His all-night speech blended political rhetoric and emotional pleas for all of his GOP colleagues to join him in blocking any government funding for the health care reforms.
Technically, Cruz's remarks did not constitute a filibuster. A filibuster is a tactic used to delay or block a vote on legislation or an appointment. Lawmakers can keep a debate going without interruption indefinitely. They don't have to specify what they are filibustering but must keep speaking or, in the case of one senator on the list, singing. Here are some of the most memorable and longest filibusters in Senate history.
Longest filibusters – 24 hours, 18 minutes: Sen. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina holds the record for the longest filibuster when he took to the floor to oppose the Civil Rights Act of 1957. One of the ways the segregationist Republican filled his time was by reading the election laws of every state.
Longest filibusters – 22 hours, 26 minutes: Sen. Wayne Morse was considered "The Tiger of the Senate" by his admirers. He abandoned the Republican Party and became an Independent because of President Dwight Eisenhower's decision to choose Richard Nixon as his running mate. In 1953, Morse filibustered Tidelands Oil legislation, which was the record until Thurmond broke it in 1957.
Longest filibusters – 18 hours: Sen. Robert La Follette Sr. was a progressive Republican who often championed causes of the working class and working poor. Like others on this list, La Follette knew how to attract attention. For instance, his 18-hour filibuster in 1908 stood as the record until Morse outlasted him 45 years later.
Longest filibusters – 16 hours, 12 minutes: In 1981, the country was amassing debt and commentators were warning of financial apocalypse. Sen. William Proxmire, a Democrat from Wisconsin, filibustered against allowing the national debt to go over $1 trillion. Currently, the national debt is over $5 trillion.
Longest filibusters – 15 hours, 30 minutes: Sen. Huey Long of Louisiana filibustered a provision in President Franklin D. Roosevelt's National Recovery Administration in 1935. The Democrat had a reputation as a showman and used up some of his time on the floor by reading out recipes for a friend's oysters and potlikker.
Longest filibusters – 15 hours, 14 minutes: Sen. Alfonse D'Amato was somewhat of an oddity. The New York Republican was a conservative in a typically liberal state and very blunt and sometimes theatrical. Near the end of his filibuster of a pending tax increase, he chose to sing until finally giving up.