When Congress gets theatrical…
Uh huh, I did just put ‘funny’ in the same sentence as ‘US Politics’, and I’m not talking about elections here, but a little something which you might not already know about, partly because many people not knowing about it helps to keep it happening.
The funny part of US Politics, funnily enough, has an equally funny name! Okay so I’ll stop now, but let me tell you one more funny thing- it starts with an f too 😉
The word? Filibuster.
I know, it sounds as strange as what’s been known to happen during one of these, which can sometimes occur when a law is being debated in the Senate.
What the filibuster is, is a speech. Not an ordinary speech, though, because when a member of the minority side in the Senate wants to get a bill changed or killed, they can talk for as long as they like (or more likely, can!) until the majority gets fed up and gives in (concedes) or a cloture/call for a vote is invoked. Unfortunately for many Senators (and fortunately for others), this is difficult to obtain (2/3 majority needed) and even after cloture Senators can still speak for another 30 hours. The longest filibuster is currently held by Strom Thurmond- a whopping 24 hours, 18 minutes (Read the full script here… if you dare…).
In the Senate, no vote can take place while any Senator still wants to speak- and speak they do! There have been some pretty crazy moments in Congress- today I share with you some of my favourites.
1.Huey Long and the Oysters, 1935.
Yeah. this did actually happen. Oysters and Congress aren’t usually connected, but in 1935, we saw them merge… 😛 If you’re a fan of potlikker, you were really missing on this one- Huey Long even shared his recipe for it!
2. D’Amato singing “South of the Border (Down Mexico Way)”, 1992.
Why is this not on Youtube? With nothing else to talk about, D’Amato resorted to singing, although how he could manage that after hours of talking and reading from the phonebook of the District of Columbia (he spent 15 hours on that filibuster!), is beyond me.
3. Ted Cruz reading ‘Green Eggs and Ham’ in a Filibuster which was not actually a filibuster, 2013.
Definitely, I can’t leave this one out of the list, although technically it’s not a filibuster but a speech. Nevertheless, that didn’t stop Cruz from speaking for 21 hours against Obamacare in a speech that also included Dr. Seuss and the problem of “college kids’ inability to find White Castle burgers during the wee hours because of Obamacare” (Politico).
So as we’ve seen, the Filibuster (which allows the minority in the Senate to potentially defeat or delay legislation) has featured some pretty strange stuff in the past. Sometimes even the threat of a filibuster can force a small majority to go and just negotiate with the minority, and with the hours spent on discussions of oysters, family recipes and filibustering on the right to filibuster, we can maybe see why.