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1876—An Army appropriation bill was filibustered against for 12 days, forcing
the abandonment of a rider which would have suspended existing election
laws. 1880—A measure to reorganize the Senate was filibustered from March 24 to
May 16 by an evenly divided Senate, until two Senators resigned, giving
the Democrats a majority. 1890—The Blair education bill was filibustered.
The “Force bill,” providing for Federal supervision of elections, was
successfully filibustered for 29 days. This resulted in the cloture resolution introduced by Senator Aldrich which was also filibustered and
the resolution failed. 1893—An unsuccessful filibuster lasting 42 days was organized against a bill for
the repeal of the Silver Purchase Act. 1901–Senator Carter successfully filibustered a river and harbor bill because it
failed to include certain additional appropriations. 1902—There was a successful filibuster against Tri-State bill proposing to admit
Oklahoma, Arizona, and New Mexico to statehood, because the measure did not include all of Indian Territory according to the original
boundaries. 1903–Senator Tillman (South Carolina) filibustered against a deficiency appro
priation bill because it failed to include an item paying his State a war
claim. The item was finally replaced in the bill. 1907–Senator Stone filibustered against a ship-subsidy bill. 1908–Senator La Follette led a filibuster lasting 28 days against the Vreeland
Aldrich emergency currency law. The filibuster finally failed. 1911-Senator Owen filibustered a bill proposing to admit New Mexico and
Arizona to statehood. The House had accepted New Mexico, but refused Arizona because of her proposed constitution. Senator Owen filibustered against the admission of New Mexico until Arizona was replaced in the measure. The Canadian reciprocity bill passed the House and failed through a
filibuster in the Senate. It passed Congress in an extraordinary session
but Canada refused to accept the proposition. 1913—A filibuster was made against the omnibus public building bill by Senator
Stone of Missouri until certain appropriations for his State were included. 1914–Senator Burton (Ohio) filibustered against a rivers and harbors bill for 12
hours. Senator Gronna filibustered against acceptance of a conference report on
an Indian appropriation bill. In this year also the following bills were debated at great length, but finally
passed: Panama Canal tolls bill, 30 days; Federal Trade Commission bill, 30 days; Clayton amendments to the Sherman Act, 21 days;
conference report on the Clayton bill, 9 days. 1915—A filibuster was organized against President Wilson's ship purchase bill
by which German ships in American ports would have been purchased. The filibuster was successful and as a result three important appropria
tion bills failed. 1917—The armed ship bill of President Wilson was successfully filibustered, and
caused the defeat of many administration measures. This caused the adoption of the Martin resolution embodying the President's recom
mendation for a change in the Senate rules, on limitation of debate. 1919—A filibuster was successful against an oil and mineral leasing bill, causing
the failure of several important appropriation bills and necessitating an
extraordinary session of Congress. 1921—The emergency tariff bill was filibustered against in January 1921, which
led Senator Penrose to present a cloture petition. The cloture petition
failed, but the tariff bill finally passed. 1922—The Dyer antilynching bill was successfully filibustered against by a group
of southern Senators. 1923— President Harding's ship-subsidy bill was defeated by a filibuster. 1925–Senator Copeland (New York) talked at length against ratification of the
Isle of Pines Treaty with Cuba, but the treaty was finally ratified. 1926-A 10-day filibuster against the World Court Protocol was ended by a
cloture vote of 68 to 26, the second time cloture was adopted by the Senate. A bill for migratory bird refuges was talked to death by States rights advocates in the spring of 1926, a motion for cloture failing by a vote of 46 to 33.
1927—Cloture again failed of adoption in 1927 when it was rejected by 32 yeas
against 59 nays as a device to end obstruction against the Swing-Johnson
bill for development of the Lower Colorado River Basin. One of the fiercest filibusters in recent decades succeeded in March 1927,
in preventing an extension of the life of a special campaign investigating committee headed by James A. Reed of Missouri. The committee's exposé of corruption in the 1926 senatorial election victories of Frank L. Smith of Illinois and of William S. Vare in Pennsylvania had aroused the ire of a few Senators who refused to permit the continuance of the
investigation despite the wishes of a clear majority of the Senate. 1933—Early in 1933, a 2-week filibuster was staged against the Glass branch banking bill
' in which Huey Long first participated as a leading figure. “Senators found him impervious to sarcasm and no man could silence him.” Cloture was defeated by the margin of a single vote. Finally,
the filibuster was abandoned and the bill passed. 1935—The most celebrated of the Long filibusters was staged on June 12–13, 1935.
Senator Long spoke for 15%2 hours, a feat of physical endurance never before excelled in the Senate, in favor of the Gore amendment to the proposed extension of the National Industrial Recovery Act. But the
amendment was finally tabled. 1938A 29-day "feather duster” filibuster in January-February 1938 defeated
passage of a Federal antilynching bill, although an overwhelming major
ity of the Senate clearly favored the bill. 1939--- An extended filibuster against adoption of a monetary bill, extending
Presidential authority to alter the value of the dollar, continued from
June 20 to July 5, 1939, but finally failed by a narrow margin. 1942—Four organized filibusters upon the perennial question of Federal anti1944 poll-tax legislation were successful in these years. An attempt to pass 1946 fair-employment-practice legislation in 1946 was also killed by a fili1948 buster. The Senate cloture rule proved ineffective in these cases as a
device for breaking filibusters. 1949--A motion to take up a resolution (S. Res. 15) to amend the cloture rule
was debated at intervals in the Senate from February 28 to March 17
when it was amended and agreed to. 1950--A motion to take up the FEPC bill (S. 1728) was debated in the Senate,
May 8–19, 1950, a total of 9 days. Ten Senators spoke in favor of the motion to take up (really in support of the bill) and 8 Senators spoke against the motion. According to a rough calculation, the proponents of the motion and bill used 35 percent, and the opponents used 65 percent, of the space in the Congressional Record devoted to the subject. During the 9-day period 3,414 inches of the Record were consumed
with discussion of FEPC and 2,835 inches with other matters. -Mr. Malone filibustered for 11 hours against the conference report on the
slot-machine bill (S. 3357) in September 1950. 1953A prolonged debate took place on the so-called tidelands offshore oil bill.
It began April 1 and ended May 5. The tidelands debate lasted for 35 days, one of the longest on record. During this debate Senator Morse established a new record for the longest single speech. On April 24-25
he spoke for 22 hours and 26 minutes. 1954—An extended debate occurred in July 1954, on a bill to amend the Atomic
Energy Act of 1946 (S. 3690). The debate lasted 13 days. On July 26 Senator Knowland sought to invoke cloture on S. 3690, but his motion failed by a vote of 44 yeas to 42 nays.
Legislation delayed or defeated by filibusters 1 Bills
Year Reconstruction of Louisiana.
1865 Repeal of election laws.
1879 Force bill (Federal elections).
1890–91 River and harbor bills (3).
1901, 1903, 1914 Tristate bill..
1903 Colombian Treaty (Panama Canal).
1903 Ship subsidy bills (2).
1907, 1922–23 Canadian reciprocity bill.
1911 Arizona-New Mexico statehood.
1911 Ship purchase bill..
1915 Armed ship resolution -
1917 Oil and mineral leasing bill and several appropriation bills.
Legislation delayed or defeated by filibusters 1 Continued Bills
Year Antilynch bills (3)
1922, 1935, 1937–38 Migratory bird bill.
1926 Campaign investigation resolution.
1927 Colorado River bills (Boulder Dam project) (2)
1927, 1928 Emergency officers retirement bill.
1927 Washington public buildings bill..
1927 National-origins provisions in immigration laws, resolution to postpone.. 1929 Oil industry investigation.
1931 Supplemental deficiency bill..
1935 Work relief bill (“'prevailing wage” amendment).
1935 Flood-control bill
1935 Coal conservation bill.
1936 Antipoll tax bills (4).
1942, 1944, 1946, 1948 Fair employment practices bills (2)
1946, 1950 Numerous appropriation bills. (For a partial list of 82 such bills filed from
1876 to 1916, see Congressional Record, June 28, 1916, pp. 10152–10153.) 1 36 bills appear in this incomplete list, not including the many appropriation bills that have either been lost in the jam that resulted from filibusters or were talked to death because they failed to include items that particular Senators desired for the benefit of their States or because grants they made were considered excessive. Several successful filibusters have sought and achieved the enactment of legislation favored by the filibusters. Filibusters have succeeded not only in preventing the passage of legislation, but also in preventing the organization of the Senate, the election of its officers, and the confirmation of Presidential appointees. They have also succeeded in modifying the terms of legislation; in delaying adjournment of Congress; in forcing special sessions, the adoption of conference reports, of neutrality legislation, and of a ship subsidy; in postponing consideration of legislation, and in raising the price of silver. Legislation has also often been defeated or modified by the mere threat of a filibuster. All the bills listed above, however, except the force bill, the armed ship resolution, and the so-called civil rights bills, were eventually enacted, in some form.
Of the 36 measures listed above, all but 11 eventually became law, in some cases after compromises had been made in their provisions following the failure of cloture. The table below, prepared at the direction of Senator Hayden, shows the later action on 35 filibustered bills.
The 36th measure (the second FEPC bill) was filibustered in 1950, subsequent to the table that follows.
Later action on 35 filibustered bills
1 In special or subsequent sessions.
Source: Limitation on Debate in the Senate. Hearings before the Committee on Rules and Administration, U. 8. Senate, 81st Cong., 1st sess. On resolutions relative to amending Senate rule XXII relating to dotúre. January and February 1949, p. 42.
1 Many cloture petitions have also been withdrawn or held out of order since 1917.
ARGUMENTS FOR FILIBUSTERING 1. Minorities have rights which no majority should override. Government is constituted to protect minorities against majorities. Obstruction is justifiable as a means of preventing a majority from trampling upon minority rights until a broad political consensus has developed.
2. A Senate majority does not necessarily represent a consensus of the people or even of the States. Frequently popular opinion upon a question has not been formulated or, if it has been, it is often not effectively expressed. Prolonged debate may prevent hasty majority action which would be out of harmony with genuine popular consensus.
3. It is the special duty of the Senate, sitting in an appellate capacity, carefully to inspect proposed legislation, a duty not readily performed without freedom of debate. In our system of government, where legislation can be gaveled through the House of Representatives at breakneck speed with only scanty debate under special rules framed by a partisan committee, it is essential that one place be left for thorough-going debate.
4. Filibusters really do not prevent needed legislation, because every important measure defeated by filibuster has been enacted later, except the civil rights bills. No really meritorious measure has been permanently defeated and some vicious proposals have been killed. The filibuster has killed more bad bills than good ones.
5. It is the unique function of the Senate to act as a check upon the executive, a responsibility it could not perform without full freedom of debate. Unrestricted debate in the Senate is the only check upon presidential and party autocracy. It is justified by the nature of our governmental system of separated powers.
6. The constitutional requirement for recording the yeas and nays is a protection of dilatory tactics. The provision of the Constitution which requires the yeas
and nays to be recorded in the Journal at the desire of one-fifth of the Members present in an intentional safeguard allowing the minority to delay proceedings.
7. Majority cloture in the Senate would destroy its deliberative function and make it a mere annex of the House of Representatives.
8. Simple majority cloture would have brought many a decision which would have accorded ill with the sober second thought of the American people.
9. The Senate, without majority cloture, actually passes a larger percentage of bills introduced in that body than does the House of Representatives, with cloture.
10. To enforce cloture by vote of a chance majority in the Senate might bring greater loss than gain.
11. Filibusters are justifiable whenever a great, vital, fundamental, constitutional question is presented and a majority is trying to override the organic law of the United States. Under such circumstances, Senators as ambassadors of the States in Congress have a duty to protect the rights of the States.
ARGUMENTS AGAINST FILIBUSTERING 1. Under the practice of filibustering, the basic American principle of majority rule is set at naught. Not only is the majority thwarted in its purpose to enact public measures, it is also coerced into acceptance of measures for which it has no desire or approval.
2. The Senate should legislate efficiently, with responsibility only to the people. If the Senate is to be efficient, time should not be wasted in unnecessary delay merely for the sake of obstruction. Filibusters sometimes make special sessions of Congress imperative, with resulting unnecessary expense to the people and husiness uncertainty in the country. They also destroy responsibility of the majority party to the people.
3. Experience abroad and in the State legislatures indicates that debate can be limited without undemocratic results.
4. The constitutional provision that "the yeas and navs of the Members of either House on any question shall, at the desire of one-fifth of those present, he entered on the Journal” requires an immediate vote when the yeas and nays have been properly demanded.
5. Filibustering gives one Senator or a little group of Senators a veto power. It enables a handful of men in the Senate to prevent the passage of legislation desired by the overwhelming majority of the Members of Congress and the country. It permits one Senator to hold up needed appropriations until he extorts the favor that he demands for his State.
6. Filibusters have delayed for decades the enactment of social legislation passed by the House of Representatives and desired by a majority of the American people. Many people are losing faith in American democracy because of its repeated and prolonged failures to perform its implicit promises. Responsibility for these failures lies in large part at the door of Senate filibusters.
7. They arouse popular resentment and bring the Senate into disrepute at home and abroad.
8. Filibusters cost the taxpayers thousands of dollars, consuming days and weeks of valuable time and many pages of the Congressional Record at $80 a page.
9. They impose upon the Senate an indignity which would not be tolerated in any other legislative chamber in the world.
10. The present cloture rule (rule XXII) is so cumbersome as to be unworkable. It has been successfully invoked only 4 out of 22 times in 39 years, the last time being in 1927.
11. Free speech would not be abolished in the Senate by majority cloture because, under the proposed amendment, adequate opportunity to deliberate upon a measure would be afforded during the prepetition stage plus the 2-day interval between the presentation of the cloture petition and the vote upon it, plus the 96 potential hours of debate allowed after cloture has been invoked.
12. Scores of appropriation bills and much meritorious legislation have been defeated or delayed by filibusters in the past.
13. Filibusters are undemocratic in that they permit one-third of the Senators present, plus one, to obstruct the majority. This group of Senators may be from only one section of the country, they may be from only one political party, and none of them may have been recently elected. It is a dubious argument to defend the filibuster on the ground that it protects the minority when actually its principal use, actual or potential, is to deny fundamental democratic rights to certain minorities. Most of the really undemocratic conditions in our country today exist Lecause of the threat or use of the filibuster.